Bush vows sustained help for Africa

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US President George W. Bush told Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure that his commitment to help Africa battle corruption, HIV/AIDS, and malaria as well as promote literacy remains strong.

"We’re proud to be standing side-by-side with you," the US president said, highlighting Washington’s efforts to help Africa battle deadly diseases as well as poverty, corruption, and extremists.

"I assured the president that our commitment remains strong," said Bush, who leaves Friday on a five-country trip to Africa — likely his last before leaving office in January 2001 — to promote the kinder, gentler face of US foreign policy.

Toure, meeting with Bush at the White House, offered "the sympathy and solidarity of the Malian people" regarding the deadly tornadoes that sliced through several southern US states and postponed their talks from Friday.

But I would have come to the United States just to tell President Bush: ‘Thank you.’ The president has undertaken historic initiatives not only for Mali, but also for Africa."

During his trip next week, Bush is expected to highlight his call for doubling aid to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria, and a 698-million-dollar grant to Tanzania as part of his Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) aid program.

Bush, whose MCC rewards democratic and free-market reforms, also said he and his guest discussed US helping in battling "the dangers of radicals and extremists associated with groups like Al-Qaeda.

"And we talked about the need for close cooperation to protect the innocent people from those who murder the innocent in order to achieve their dark political vision," said Bush.

The US Army has been training the Malian military in counter-terrorism strategies for five years under the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorist Partnership (TSCTP).

The desert north of Mali, vast and difficult to monitor, is an important point of passage for traffickers, especially of weapons, and for militant groups active in the Sahara, such as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), now known as Al-Qaeda’s branch in northern Africa,

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