For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 10, 2003
Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer
July 10, 2003
Aboard Air Force One
En route Gabarone, Botswana
10:08 A.M. (L)
MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. The President today will meet with the President of Botswana. On the agenda is AIDS, the war on terror, trade and I believe he'll also discuss the Millennium Challenge Account to help developing countries and economies of Africa. Then the President will tour Southern African Global Competitiveness Hub. He will have a lunch. And then the President will depart for the Okolodi Nature Reserve. He'll tour the reserve, he'll greet the United States Embassy greeting at the airport, prior to departure, and then he will return back to Pretoria where he will spend the evening.
Q Is he going to pet one of the cheetahs?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we're vigilant to make certain that none of the rhinos charge him. That's going to be a fun stop.
Q Are there any outstanding issues between us and Botswana that he needs to deal with?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's going to be the issues I just mentioned. That's what's on the agenda. Botswana is a real example of -- a shining example of democracy. Botswana is also a country that has a very high AIDS rate. They are working hard to deal with it. They've been forthright in dealing with it.
The AIDS rate, the best we can see, has been essentially flat since 2001.
Q Would the President like to see them make more progress, then? I mean, if they --
MR. FLEISCHER: On AIDS?
Q Yes --
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, clearly, clearly. The AIDS rate in Botswana is extraordinarily high. It's one of the highest in Africa. And that's one of the reasons the President has such compassion, because there are so many orphans in Botswana. There are so many families that have just been devastated by this disease. The country has been devastated by it. And this is one of the reasons behind the President's initiative, to help the countries of Africa to do more. But Botswana is trying to do the right thing. And we want to help them, so they can do more.
Q When he was in Pretoria yesterday, meeting with Mbeki, in their private session, did he criticize Mbeki at all for not moving fast enough on AIDS?
MR. FLEISCHER: Everything that you got in the report from the background briefer yesterday covered that topic. I've got nothing to add to that.
Q Well, if he didn't bring it up, is he satisfied with the pace that the South Africans are making?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has got an initiative to help all the nations in Africa, and to help them so everyone can do more. That's what this initiative focuses on.
Q Mogae in Botswana is talking about trying to provide free AIDS drugs to people who need it. Does the President think anything like that is needed in the States, for AIDS patients in the United States?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the situations are not comparable. The situation in Africa is so much of a worse level than anything that you will find in the United States. So it requires a different focus. But the United States is doing tremendous amount domestically on the AIDS front, as well.
Q Botswana is doing everything right if they -- they're trying to give out free drugs, and they've got one of the most aggressive programs in the world. And, yet, the AIDS rate is high. What more can they do? What more can be done?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's why it's a terrible disease. And what needs to be done is to get help to areas that are hard to reach, that aren't doing all that they can do, there are remote areas. There are just large parts of the country that still have serious problems. And more training, more education, greater availability of antiretroviral drugs -- all of this goes into fighting a pandemic that's a very serious one in Botswana. There is disease that needs to be fought. This is a fight against a ravaging disease.
Q This money still has to be approved by Congress.
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Is this something the President is going to fight for in Congress, with the same zeal that he fought for his tax cuts?
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, I think this is well on its way to being approved in the Congress. The authorization -- let's be clear on the numbers, too. The authorization is a full $15 billion over five years. There is a ramp-up in the first year. So the funding will hit the $3 billion level, it may not hit it in the first year for the appropriations. But that's a ramp-up issue, that's typical as funding gets appropriated. And I think if you look at the administration's appropriations request, you'll see that the ramp-up is addressed in there and the $15 billion/five years is what the administration is focused on --
Q The same holds true for the Millennium Challenge Accounts, you believe?
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, absolutely. The Millennium Challenge Account, in fact, is moving in the State Department, authorization is moving in -- I think it's the Senate, today. There will be amendments, we'll monitor the amendments closely. Today, Thursday, the State Department authorization moving in the Senate with Millennium Challenge Account funding.
It's an exciting year for international initiatives aimed at helping the developing world. The President, when he went to Monterrey, Mexico, launched the Millennium Challenge Account. Congress is now moving on the Millennium Challenge Account. The Millennium Challenge Account is a fund to help those who help themselves. It rewards nations that focus on transparency, openness, democracy, so that America's taxpayer dollars are well-used, well-spent and deliver results.
The AIDS initiative similarly -- this President has tackled international issues with a passion and development with new initiatives, with real money and with genuine compassion. And Congress is following. So there is exciting results to report all in less than one year, since the President announced these initiatives. The State of the Union was where the President announced the AIDS initiative -- that was just seven months ago, and it's moving.
Q Ari, there's been a lot of focus on this trip and highlighting successful programs in Africa, whether it's countries who deal with AIDS correctly or trade or taking a leadership role in the conflicts on the continent. But what does the President want Americans who may see or read or kind of be exposed to this trip in Africa, what does he want them to take away from this trip?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the President begins in knowing the American people are a compassionate people, and that's why they support the use of their tax dollars to help the developing nations of Africa. They also want to make sure that their dollars are used wisely, that their dollars don't go to corrupt regimes. And that's why the Millennium Challenge Account, for example, focuses on helping those who are on the path to transparency and openness and rule of law.
That's the message the President wants to send back home, that America's compassion is met by a government that will do the right thing in helping the nations of Africa to help themselves.
Q Ari, is the President actually going to meet anybody today who has AIDS or has HIV? Did he meet anybody yesterday, or is that not until Uganda?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, at the Ford roundtable I literally could not hear because of the acoustics in the room, so if he did, I could not tell you.
Q But he will in Uganda, he's touring a --
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't look that ahead to the details in Uganda. Will the President meet with anybody in Uganda who has HIV; do you know?
MR. DICKENS: I'll find out.
Q But he hasn't so far, that you know of, met with anybody in South Africa or will in Botswana?
MR. DICKENS: I'll get back to you.
Q You'll get back to us? Okay.
MR. FLEISCHER: I just couldn't, literally couldn't hear at the roundtable. We had a pooler there, so you may want to check with the pooler, who actually was in a better seat.
Q Is the President enjoying his trip, or is it all work and policy?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think he's enjoying it. He's looking forward to seeing some wild animals today. It's not a full safari but, nevertheless, there will be animals. And the President has gotten a great reception, too. The meetings yesterday in South Africa, a lot of warmth to the meetings; lunch ran over. I think the President is enjoying this trip a lot.
Q On a different topic, the BBC is saying UK officials don't believe they'll find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I saw that on the bottom of the screen and it was unattributed, and I don't know anything more than what they put on the screen. So I don't know where that comes from, if it comes from anywhere.
Q The U.S. is still confident they'll find them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Does the President ever watch Tony Blair when he has to face Parliament? They gave him a pretty rough time yesterday.
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know if he does watch, but we have a great constitutional system here in the United States. (Laughter.)
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 10:17 A.M. (L)