President Bush sought Wednesday to soothe African fears about American interests on the continent. He said the U.S. isn’t aiming to make Africa into a base for greater military power or a proxy battleground with China.
With no prompting at a news conference, Bush sought to deal with suspicions about the creation of a new U.S. military command dedicated to Africa.
“I know there’s rumors in Ghana, ‘All Bush is coming to do is try to convince you to put a big military base here,’ ” Bush said. “That’s baloney. Or as we say in Texas, that’s bull. … I want to dispel the notion that all of a sudden America is bringing all kinds of military to Africa.”
Instead, Bush said, the new command – unique to the Pentagon’s structure – was aimed at more effectively reorganizing U.S. military efforts related to Africa under one hierarchy, and to strengthen African nations’ peacekeeping, anti-terror, anti-trafficking and other efforts.
Seoul, South Korea
President-elect cleared of fraud
A special prosecutor cleared South Korean President-elect Lee Myung-bak of financial fraud allegations today, allowing him to take office next week with his mandate untarnished.
The announcement ended a probe over suspicions that Lee colluded in a 2001 stock case, a controversy that plagued Lee throughout last year’s campaign.
“The president-elect was not involved in the stock price manipulation,” special prosecutor Chung Ho-young said in a televised announcement of the outcome of a 38-day investigation.
Ramallah, West Bank
Palestinian leaders look to Kosovo
The Palestinians should follow Kosovo’s example and unilaterally declare independence if peace talks with Israel fail, a senior Palestinian official said Wednesday, but the Palestinian president said the proposal was premature.
The mixed Palestinian messages came a day after the latest meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The two men formally relaunched peace talks at a U.S.-hosted summit in Annapolis, Md., last November.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a Palestinian negotiator and top aide to Abbas, said in an interview Wednesday that the peace efforts “are going nowhere.”
He said the Palestinians’ “first option” is success in the negotiations. “If this doesn’t happen, we have another option,” he said, noting Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia earlier this week.
“Kosovo is not better than Palestine,” he added. “If the whole world, the United States, the European Union, the majority of its states, have embraced the independence of Kosovo, why shouldn’t this happen with Palestine as well?”