President Bush Postpones January Trip to Africa, Cites Need To Focus on International, Domestic Concerns
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer on Friday announced that President Bush is postponing a scheduled mid-January trip to Africa, which would be his first, citing concerns over possible war in Iraq and a desire to focus more on domestic issues, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. Fleischer said, "The president looks forward to visiting Africa in 2003 to continue building America's partnership with the continent and to sharing firsthand with African leaders his commitment to working on issues ranging from the war on terrorism to economic development" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/21). The New York Times reports that postponement of the trip means that Bush "has decided to put off ... an opportunity to showcase what administration officials call the softer side of his foreign policy." Bush was planning to attend an African summit meeting in Mauritius and tour Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa to discuss improvements to foreign aid and increasing funds for AIDS research, according to the Times (Sanger/Preston, New York Times, 12/21). For this coming year, the Bush administration has asked for $2.9 billion for HIV vaccine and treatment research; $500 million for the administration's International Mother and Child HIV Prevention Initiative, which will target African and Caribbean nations; and more than $1.3 billion for international efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Of that amount, $500 million would go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/2).
Congressional Black Caucus Urges More Action, Money
In a letter sent Thursday prior to the White House's announcement that Bush had postponed his trip to Africa, 32 members of the Congressional Black Caucus urged the president to "launch a major new U.S. initiative to fight AIDS" and "respond on an appropriate scale to address the greatest plague in recorded history," according to a press release from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). According to the letter, Bush has a "remarkable opportunity to demonstrate United States leadership against AIDS at a moment when the world will be watching." The CBC requested that Bush include $2.5 billion for international AIDS programs in the foreign aid budget for fiscal year 2004 and asked that 50% of that funding be given to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The CBC also asked Bush to prioritize treatment for those affected by HIV/AIDS, promote access to HIV/AIDS medicines in developing countries, expand programs for AIDS orphans and cancel debt for "impoverished countries" to "free up" funding for HIV/AIDS programs. The letter concluded, "We cannot win the war against AIDS without greater financial resources and a clear plan of action for the United States. Each day we delay in mounting a comprehensive -- and compassionate -- response to the global AIDS and TB pandemics, the cost in human, social and economic terms grow" (Lee release, 12/20).