Annan holds high-level talks in Mozambique on AIDS, drought and other regional issues

Annan holds high-level talks in Mozambique on AIDS, drought and other regional issues

Kofi Annan
AIDS and drought in southern Africa topped the agenda of talks held today by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan during an official visit to Mozambique.

Arriving in the capital, Maputo, this morning, Mr. Annan was met at the airport by President Joachim Chissano and greeted with a 19-gun salute. During their one-on-one meeting in the afternoon, the two leaders discussed the crippling epidemic and the region's dry spell - topics which were later raised again, along with other regional issues, during talks which included other officials, according to a UN spokesman.

President Chissano voiced concern about genetically modified food, and the Secretary-General assured him that all UN-distributed food was certified for its health and nutritional aspects and that the United Nations would not distribute any food that was deemed to be harmful, spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

The discussions also touched on the political process in Mozambique. The Secretary-General noted that the President would not seek another term, and said neighbouring countries would watch the elections scheduled for next year with interest. He also offered the UN's help in facilitating those elections, if needed, the spokesman reported.

During a press briefing after the meeting, the Secretary-General was asked about Zimbabwe's land reform programme. He said that while land reform was necessary in that country, "I don't think the approach of the Government is the right one."

"The best way to proceed with such land reforms is to have a credible plan based on the rule of law," he stressed, noting that once that was accomplished, Zimbabwe would receive the international support that it needs.

Asked about the most urgent requirements facing Africa, the Secretary-General pointed to the need for peace and efforts to fight AIDS, which he said was "destroying the continent."

During a meeting later with the UN country team in Mozambique, Mr. Annan again raised the issue of the fight against HIV/AIDS and food distribution during the current drought.

The Secretary-General then visited a youth training centre, where Mozambican teenagers enacted a mime performance about AIDS. The Secretary-General later asked the youths how many of them knew friends or relatives with HIV, and half of the teenagers raised their hands.

Also today, the Secretary-General went to Maputo's Heroes Circle, where he laid a wreath at a memorial for the fallen heroes of the country's independence movement. In addition, the UN leader received the keys to the city from Mayor Artur Canana. He responded by praising the citizens of Maputo for their courage during the country's struggle for independence.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General's wife, Nane, visited a Maputo school to witness a performance by young people living with HIV/AIDS on how to help students to protect themselves the virus. She described the participants as heroes because "they are standing up and talking about their situation."