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World - Africa

Nigeria's Obasanjo takes plans for democracy on the road

Clinton meeting 'very encouraging'

March 30, 1999
Web posted at: 11:26 p.m. EST (0426 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President-elect Olesegun Obasanjo of Nigeria met with U.S. President Bill Clinton on Tuesday and said he will build democracy in his West African nation despite "the views and the thinking of the skeptics" who say corruption will endure.

"We discussed the transition in Nigeria. The president reaffirmed the interest of the U.S. in democracy in Africa," Obasanjo told reporters after the meeting.

"The reception that we had was very encouraging, very warm, and really at this stage you cannot ask for more," he added.

Obasanjo, who is on a world tour aimed at restoring international confidence in Nigeria, talked with Clinton for roughly a half hour about establishing democratic rule in Nigeria.

The White House said the meeting "highlighted the broad and increasing cooperation between our two governments."

"The United States is determined to help Nigeria take its place as a democratic and economic leader," it added.

The talks also covered Nigeria's regional peacekeeping work and its economic reforms, a White House statement said.

Obasanjo said he would work to eliminate crime and drug trafficking, as well as the rampant corruption that has placed Nigeria high among the world's most corrupt countries and imperiled it for most of its existence.

"I understand and sympathize with the skeptics, but I don't go by the views and the thinking of the skeptics," Obasanjo said.

The Nigerian president-elect's specific anti-corruption plans include setting up an agency and a special tribunal that will have the power to search for cases of "ill-gotten wealth," and deal with them appropriately.

Obasanjo later met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, as well as officials from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is regarded by the Clinton administration as a potential force for political stability in the rest of the continent. The United States welcomed last month's Nigerian elections, which will bring into power the first democratic government in more than 15 years.

Washington already has lifted restrictions on visas for Nigerian officials and has certified it as a country cooperating with the United States on drug trafficking.

Obasanjo had been jailed by Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha, who died last June. After Abacha died, his successor, Gen. Abdulasalam Abubakar, steered Nigeria toward civilian rule. Obasanjo was elected in February.

Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
IMF pledges quick aid if Nigeria sticks to reforms
March 19, 1999
Nigerian president-elect vows to rebuild economy
March 2, 1999
Charges of vote fraud mar Obasanjo's lead in Nigerian poll
February 28, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Obasanjo's campaign
United Nations Home Page
Mining Co.: Nigeria
NigeriaWEB
The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
The Carter Center
Africa News Service - Nigeria
Poly Sci: Federal Republic of Nigeria
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