With South African Broadcasting
The Map Room
The White House
July 3, 2003
1:17 P.M. EDT
QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much, indeed, for talking to us here today.
Let me start by seeing if we can perhaps make a little bit of news.
Liberia, many West African leaders have asked you to send U.S. peacekeeping
troops to join a multinational stabilization force in Liberia. Are you going
to? If so, how many and for how long?
THE PRESIDENT: We're in the process of determining the course of action
necessary to see that peace and stability reign in Liberia. And some of our
military people are meeting with ECOWAS leaders today. And I haven't made
a decision yet.
QUESTION: Are you closing in on a decision?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Every day that goes by is closer to a decision. But
I need -- before I make decisions, I like to have facts, and I'm gathering
the facts necessary to determine what is necessary, who's willing to participate.
The one thing that must happen is Charles Taylor has got to leave. A condition
for any kind of operation that stabilizes the country is for Mr. Taylor to
leave the country, and hopefully we can achieve that objective diplomatically.
Colin Powell is working closely with Kofi Annan and others at the United
Nations to prepare the groundwork, if possible, for Mr. Taylor's departure.
QUESTION: Let me switch countries, if I may, and ask you about Zimbabwe. A short
while ago your Secretary of State, Colin Powell, wrote in The New York Times
that "South Africa can and should play a stronger and more sustained
role in resolving matters in Zimbabwe." Specifically, what would you
like to see President Thabo Mbeki do in Zimbabwe, that he's not already doing?
THE PRESIDENT: Insist that there be elections. Insist that democracy rule.
Insist that the conditions necessary for that country to become prosperous
again are in place.
I agree with the Secretary of State. I certainly don't want to put any pressure
on my friend, but Zimbabwe has not been a good case study for democracy in
a very important part of the world. And we hope that, not only Mr. Mbeki,
but other leaders convince the current leadership to promote democracy.
QUESTION: Do you think quiet diplomacy can work?
THE PRESIDENT: I hope any kind of diplomacy can work. So far, diplomacy
hasn't worked, that's part of the problem. You know, it's an interesting
question. I guess writing an article may not be viewed as quiet diplomacy,
since it was quite public. But I also have spoken out on Zimbabwe -- it's
a bad example.
Let me give you one reason why. There's a lot of starving people in sub-Sahara
Africa, yet, Zimbabwe used to be able to grow more than it needed to help
deal with the starvation. We're a nation that is interested in helping people
that are starving. We're going to spend a billion dollars this year on programs
to help the hungry. It would be really helpful if Zimbabwe's economy was
such that they would become a breadbasket again, a capacity to grow more
food that's needed so that we could help -- they could help deal with the
And, yet, the country is in such that, you know, in such a condition that
the agricultural sector of its economy is in shambles right now.
QUESTION: On HIV, you surprised many in Washington by the vigor with which you've
embraced the battle to combat HIV/AIDS. Some say you could do even more by
more enthusiastically embracing debt relief for Africa. You favor it enthusiastically
for Iraq; why not more enthusiastically for Africa?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me start with the HIV program. I mean, enthusiasm
is to the tune of $15 billion -- that's pretty darn enthusiastic -- to deal
with the pandemic. And I also have agreed to increase the direct developmental
aid grants from the United States by 50 percent.
However, we expect countries -- whether they be in Africa or anywhere else
-- that are applying for this money to embrace the habits of a free country,
like transparency, anti-corruption, making sure the people are educated and
receive health care. So we're doing a lot in America.
There is a program in place for debt relief. And I would like to see that
program implemented in full. I also called for the World Bank to give more
grants rather than loans. And so our program across the board is compassionate,
in my judgment, because we care about Africa and we care about the people
QUESTION: And as you head to Africa, you are obviously aware that there are a large
number of people on the continent who disagree with many of your policies,
particularly your decision to move into Iraq -- some of them very prominent
When a statesman like former South African President Nelson Mandela says
the very personal things about you that he has said in the past and continues
to say even this week, that's got to hurt.
THE PRESIDENT: No. I did the right thing. My job is to make sure America
is secure. And if some don't like the tactics, that's the nature of a free
world, where people can express their opinion.
I admire Nelson Mandela. As a matter of fact, my administration was the
one that gave him the Medal of Freedom because of his courage and bravery.
I just happen to disagree with him on his view of how best to secure America.
But you can be rest assured that if I think America is threatened, I will
act. And, you know, I understand criticism. I mean, look, but I'm not the
kind of person that runs around trying to take a poll to determine what to
do. If I believe it's necessary for my country, I will act.
I also believe it's necessary when we see people enslaved, to work on behalf
of their freedom. Because this country believes that freedom is the desire
of every human heart. And one of the great benefits of our action in Iraq
is not only going to make America more secure, but it's going to make the
Iraqi people more free. And, you know, these mass graves we're finding is
just the tip of the iceberg about what these poor people had to suffer at
the hands of Saddam Hussein. And it's that kind of suffering that troubles
me. And I believe the use of -- proper use of power by America will make
the world more peaceful, America more secure and, as importantly, people