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Annan & Bush discuss US-UN role in Liberia

Annan and Bush discuss US role in UN peacekeeping force for Liberia

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and United States President George W. Bush today discussed a stabilization plan for war-torn Liberia under which the United States would assist a UN peacekeeping force composed of West African nations.

"We have more or less agreed to a general approach on the Liberian issue. And I'm very pleased with that," Mr. Annan, on a one-day visit to Washington, told journalists in a joint appearance with Mr. Bush after the two had met in the White House Oval Office.

Mr. Bush said the United States wanted to enable the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to get in and help create the conditions necessary for the cease-fire to hold, "that we'll participate with the troops."

Noting that he was still in the process of determining what was necessary, Mr. Bush added: "I told the Secretary-General that we want to help, that there must be a UN presence, quickly, into Liberia. He and I discussed how fast it would take to blue helmet whatever forces arrived, other than our own, of course. We would not be blue helmeted. We would be there to facilitate and then to - and then to leave."

Mr. Annan said: "We talked about areas where the President has made a difference. Over the past couple of weeks, things are going in the right direction. We have bumps in the road, but I think with the determination of the leaders and the support of the international community, we will make progress on this very difficult issue."

The two leaders also discussed the HIV/AIDS pandemic and Iraq among other issues. "I would want to thank the President for the interest in the (African) continent and his determination to help defeat the AIDS pandemic," Mr. Annan said.

"I think it is a tragedy that is not only taking away the future of Africa, it is really destroying the present.

"And this is - it's a disease that takes parents away from children, teachers away from students, doctors away from hospitals. So the effort that is going on is absolutely worthwhile. And at the African Union Summit, this topic was very much on everyone's mind," he added. On Iraq, he said he was encouraged to see the formation of the Iraqi Governing Council yesterday.

"And I must say that my special representative, Sergio Vieira [de Mello] and Mr. Bremer are working very well together," he added in a reference to L Paul Bremer, head of the United States-run provisional administration in Baghdad.

Earlier Mr. Annan met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and the leaders of the US Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. He was also scheduled to meet with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and several other members of the Senate and House of Representatives before returning to New York this evening.

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