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Thursday, August 6, 1998 Published at 02:04 GMT 03:04 UK

World: Africa

Mbeki visits Washington

Thabo Mbeki: will meet high-level officials in Washington

The South African Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, is in the United States on an official visit, where he will meet President Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore.

They are expected to discuss bilateral trade and security issues in Africa in a meeting on Thursday.

[ image: Iraq crisis prevented Al Gore from travelling to South Africa]
Iraq crisis prevented Al Gore from travelling to South Africa
The meeting is part of a programme of high-level exchanges between the US and South Africa aimed at strengthening political and economic relations.

The last meeting was due to take place in South Africa in February, but Al Gore had to call it off because of the looming crisis in the Gulf.

Our correspondent in Johannesburg says the US administration is keen to promote a policy of trade rather than aid in Africa, and of opening up African markets to outside investment.

This policy is behind the US African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is still waiting to be passed by the Senate.

But many African countries, including South Africa, have criticised the policy, and would prefer to see a commitment to debt relief.

Foreign policy issues

The two deputy presidents are also likely to discuss foreign policy issues.

There was alarm in Washington at South Africa's decision last week to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea and Iraq ahead of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Durban later this month.

The renewed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is also expected to be on the agenda, as South Africa could play an important mediation role in the region.

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