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Continuing tour of African countries, Annan becomes first UN chief to visit Botswana

Continuing tour of African countries, Annan becomes first UN chief to visit Botswana

Annan with President  Mogae of Botswana
Continuing his five-nation tour of Africa, Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived today in Botswana, the first United Nations chief to visit the country.

After touching down this afternoon in the capital, Gaborone, the Secretary-General and his wife, Nane, first went to the Princess Marina Hospital to visit the AIDS project there.

Nearly 40 per cent of adults in Botswana are infected with HIV and one out of every eight children is born HIV-positive. Despite such problems, the Secretary-General said he was inspired by the work being done at the hospital, and said that he considered the fight against AIDS to be a personal priority.

"This is a problem that governments alone cannot resolve," Mr. Annan said. "We need to pool our efforts if we are going to stand a chance to defeat the scourge."

The Secretary-General then met with the UN country team and staff in Botswana, and, in talking to them, again focused on AIDS. He praised the women of Botswana for their courage in coming forward to seek treatment for the disease and encouraged the nation's men to do the same.

Afterwards, Mr. Annan met briefly with President Festus Mogae to talk about the nation's International Trade Fair, and then attended the official opening of the Fair itself and looked around the exhibition stalls.

Botswana's impressive economic achievements were an eloquent demonstration that "Africa can overcome the problems of hunger, disease and war," the Secretary-General said. He warned, however, that the country still faced great challenges in dealing with poverty, unemployment and the devastating consequences of AIDS.

Mr. Annan was scheduled to meet later today with the facilitator of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, former Botswanan President Ketumile Masire, before attending a dinner in his honour hosted by President Mogae.