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John Negroponte Press Conference In Bamako, Mali


John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Bamako, Mali
November 15, 2007

Press Conference in Bamako, Mali

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: (Translated from French) It is an honor and a pleasure to be with you today. This is my first visit to Mali and I count myself fortunate to have witnessed for myself the warm hospitality and rich cultural heritage that defines this country.

I arrived in Timbuktu, where I had an opportunity to visit one of the oldest mosques in Africa and see the ancient manuscripts of Abdel Kader Haidara. Before that I was in Ouagadougou where I met with President Compaore and Prime Minister Zongo to discuss the Ouagadougou accords and the situation in Burkina Faso. Before that, I visited Abuja, Nigeria for meetings with President Yaradua and other officials. I began my trip to Africa in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, where I met with President Gbagbo, Prime Minister Soro and leaders of the opposition. We discussed the Ouagadougou Accords and the need to implement them quickly. In all of my stops, including here in Mali, I met with members of civil society.

While in Bamako, I have met with President Amadou Toumani Toure and Foreign Minister Ouane, as well as with key members of Malian civil society.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government and people of Mali for their excellent organization of the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Bamako. Mali's commitment to democracy and human rights is well-known and applauded around the world.

The link between development and democracy underpins the United States government's support for Africa as a whole and this region in particular. Through programs as diverse as USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Presidential Malaria Initiative, the Department of Defense Humanitarian Assistance program and State Department small grant funds, the United States government is helping Mali strengthen its democratic tradition. We look forward to continuing our long-standing and mutually beneficial friendship.

I am now happy to take any questions you may have.

QUESTION: (Translated from French) RFI and AFP: I would like to ask a question about security in the trans-Sahel region. In the north of Mali, hostages have been taken. What do you think of that, particularly since it is in the area that borders Algeria? What are your relations with Algeria in regards to counterterrorism? And, finally, what are the U.S. intentions in regards to the installation of, I would not say a military base, but a small presence of military soldiers in the Sahel to fight against terrorism and provide security?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: What I would say - and I would like to respond to you in English - is that, first of all, we have excellent cooperation in the field of security with the government of Mali, and mostly in the form of training and exercises. That activity is carried out in large measure because of the concerns that you just mentioned. As far as our cooperation with Algeria is concerned in the field of counterterrorism, we have good cooperation with Algeria. But I think just as important could be the improved understanding and cooperation between Algeria and Mali. And it is my understanding that your President will be visiting Algeria quite soon, and surely the situation on the border will be one of the most important topics of conversation. But in any event, this is an area in which we want to work with both governments, but we are certainly not seeking any kind of military bases or military presence by the United States in the area.

QUESTION: (Translated from French) L'Independent In regards to the security situation in the North, Bahanga has used anti-personnel mines in the North and we also know well that the United States military is there. Is the United States is in the process of trying to find ways to help Mali with a de-mining process?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: When you say that American forces are in the North, again I would say that, as I said before, our military activities are in the field of training and joint exercises and not in the form of any kind of enduring presence. And as far as the mines are concerned, it is simply an area that I do not personally know anything about what specific measures could be taken. But certainly we want to be supportive of the Government of Mali in its efforts to ensure security in that region.

QUESTION: (Translated from French) France 24 They speak about (inaudible) for American military that is now based in Germany. Could Mali be a host government to this new organization?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: This is a question of AFRICOM. As you correctly point out, there has been established an African Command, but that command for the moment continues to be situated in Europe and no decision has yet been taken as to where in Africa it might be situated. But as I said yesterday in Ouagadougou in reply to a similar question, our decision process with regard to where AFRICOM will be located will be done in consultation with affected governments and in complete transparency.

And I can tell you, because I think this will anticipate what you are about to say, this is not a subject that I discussed with either the President or the Foreign Minister today.

QUESTION: (Translated from French) France 24 Has the resumption of the Tuareg rebellion changed your plans for Mali?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: I think that our plans and our cooperation with Mali have been consistent in recent times and will continue to be so.

OK, over here, I will take two more questions.

QUESTION: (Translated from French) Radio Kledu and VOA We have spoken of the security situation in Mali and the Ouagadougou Accords, but, during your time in Africa, are you addressing any specific situation on the continent or elsewhere - such as Darfur or Pakistan, where there are problems with democracy?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Those were subjects that I discussed in some of my bilateral meetings in the course of my trip. But in this stop here in Bamako, the focus has really been on the one hand, our bilateral relationship with the people and government of Mali and, on the other hand, our global commitment to democracy which we will be going to talk about very shortly.

Last question.


QUESTION: (Translated from French) Reuters On the international scene, there is the issue of Pakistan (inaudible). What will be the message you take there? Will you meet with President Musharraf?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: You correctly point out that I will be going to Pakistan after this stop here in Mali. The political process in Pakistan has been derailed. Our message is that we want to work with the government and people of Pakistan and the political actors in Pakistan to put the political process back on track as soon as possible. My schedule is not completely defined yet and, I think as far as any details about my trip, I think it would be better that I wait until I arrive in Pakistan before discussing those matters with the media.

Thank you.

Released on November 16, 2007

ENDS

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