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Powell: Bush to make Liberia decision soon

Bush visits Uganda, next-to-last stop on trip

President Bush arrives in the East African nation of Uganda and is greeted by President Yoweri Museveni, left, at Entebbe International Airport on Friday.
President Bush arrives in the East African nation of Uganda and is greeted by President Yoweri Museveni, left, at Entebbe International Airport on Friday.

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PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- President Bush will decide in the next few days whether to send U.S. troops to Liberia to enforce a cease-fire, according to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Nearing the end of his African tour, Bush arrived early Friday in Uganda for a brief visit. His schedule called for him to meet with President Yoweri Museveni and later tour the AIDS Support Organization, or TASO, clinic.

Bush will finish his African trip with a visit Saturday to Abuja, Nigeria.

Powell said Thursday that Bush is looking at how the United States can assist in the transfer of power as Liberian President Charles Taylor steps down. However, the secretary of state said Bush has not yet made any decisions about the level of support or whether combat troops will be involved.

A U.S. team in Liberia has "just about finished its work" to determine what is needed, Powell said. (Full story)

West African nations plan to send 1,000 troops to Liberia within two weeks, negotiators meeting this week in nearby Ghana said.

"I expect that over the next several days, as we finish the assessment in Monrovia and get that report and the military assessment team has been working with ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] over the weekend, the president will be in a position to make a decision," Powell said. (Powell on Liberia and other African issues)

Bush has urged Taylor to step down to end the long civil war in his country. Nigeria has offered him exile and promised that he won't be turned over to face war crimes charges if he "will remain quiet" and refrain from interfering in his homeland's politics, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said. (Full story)

Obasanjo said he understands that Taylor is willing to accept exile only on the condition that he not be turned over to face a war crimes trial in Sierra Leone.

Press plane stowaway

U.S. officials said a stowaway got past security Friday, boarded a White House press corps bus in Pretoria, South Africa, and then got onto the U.S. press plane bound for Uganda.

On arrival in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, the unidentified man boarded a press corps bus to the press filing center.

According to sources, the man was spotted at the filing center not wearing press credentials.

When approached, he spoke in broken English and evaded a series of questions. The man did not claim to be with the media. Sources said the man, who was unarmed, was escorted off the premises and turned over to the Secret Service.

He was never near President Bush, the officials said.

After the man was discovered, security was tightened around the press corps and the plane that reporters traveled in was searched. Credentials of all those traveling with the president were also checked.

Botswana talks

On Thursday, Bush met with Botswanan President Festus Mogae and praised his handling of the AIDS epidemic.

"Botswana, as a result of the president's leadership, is on the forefront of dealing with this serious problem," Bush said at a news conference with Mogae. "We are working to put a strategy in place to treat people and prevent and provide help for those who suffer."

The U.S. leader chose Botswana as part of his five-nation African tour because of the traumatic toll AIDS has taken on the country, which is a little larger than France.

The United Nations said the southern African nation has the world's highest prevalence of adult AIDS sufferers.

During his meeting with Mogae, Bush highlighted a five-year, $15 billion U.S. initiative to combat the spread of AIDS in Africa.

The situation in Iraq has overshadowed Bush's African tour, with questions persisting about the intelligence the United States used to press the case for war.

Bush has refused to be drawn into the controversy over the discredited allegation that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Africa. Bush used the claim in his State of the Union address in January. (Full story)

A Bush administration official said the president not would have included the information in his speech if his advisers had known it was false. Other U.S. officials said the White House had a report citing a former U.S. ambassador confirming the intelligence was bogus.

U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Friday that the CIA had approved Bush's speech in its entirety. (Full story)

In Botswana, Bush cautioned patience with the efforts of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. "We're going to have to remain tough," the president said Thursday.

In South Africa, Bush said that he was "absolutely confident" in his decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world peace, and there is no doubt in my mind that the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him from power," Bush said at a Wednesday news conference with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Bush and Mbeki said their two countries had the same vision for Zimbabwe. The United States wants South Africa to exert its influence to remove Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe from power.

Bush kicked off his visit Tuesday in Senegal, where he recalled the evils of slavery and pledged to use the U.S. history of overcoming injustices to help improve and empower African nations.

White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.

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