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In Washington, Annan discusses Afghanistan, Middle East with President Bush

In Washington, Annan discusses Afghanistan, Middle East with President Bush

Kofi Annan, President Bush at the White House today
The situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East topped the agenda of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s meeting today with President George Bush in Washington, D.C., where the UN leader also discussed the global impact of HIV/AIDS with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

According to a UN spokesman, the primary focus of Mr. Annan’s half-hour-long meeting with President Bush was Afghanistan, in particular security. The Secretary-General backed Afghan Interim leader Hamid Karzai’s call for an expansion of the Security Assistance Force to areas outside Kabul and also stressed the importance of financial support to the interim administration.

On the Middle East, Mr. Annan stressed that both the Palestinians and the Israelis needed a vision of peace and international help to achieve it.

After the White House meeting, the Secretary-General went to Capitol Hill at the invitation of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Joseph Biden, and its ranking minority member, Senator Jesse Helms. Spending about an hour on the Hill, Mr. Annan held a discussion with 11 Senators, focusing almost exclusively on HIV/AIDS.

In prepared remarks distributed by his spokesman, Mr. Annan said the battle against the epidemic requires not only “an extraordinary investment of time, energy and courage by millions of people all over the world… it also requires a major investment of money, mainly in the poorer countries where these diseases do most of their terrible damage.”

The Secretary-General stressed that despite the devastation wreaked by AIDS, “the epidemic is not invincible.” He noted that affordable global strategies to respond had been adopted by the General Assembly at its special session on HIV/AIDS last June. The success of those strategies depended on roughly $10 billion being spent each year – “ a little more than half of it on prevention, the rest on care and treatment programmes.”

At a press encounter afterwards, Senator Biden said the Secretary-General had emphasized the importance of US leadership in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, and Mr. Annan called for “complete social mobilization” to deal with the issue.