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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
Diary: Bush's Africa tour
Matt Frei (L)
The BBC's Washington correspondent, Matt Frei, is travelling with US President George W Bush on his visit to Africa. Here is his account of Day Three of the much-anticipated tour.

A spectacular morning.

The mist cleared and the African winter sun cast long shadows across the landscape.

As we landed here we thought that President Bush should feel at home in Botswana.

It looks remarkably like West Texas, where he grew up: flat pastoral bush country - forgive the pun - sprinkled with the fine dust of the nearby Kalahari desert and concealing underneath it great mineral wealth.

We were right. "It looks just like Crawford," he told his entourage as they toured a game reserve, referring to the beloved ranch where he spends most weekends.

Of course, there were some things they don't have in Texas: like cheetahs, giraffes and elephants.

Apparently when they planned this trip, some in the White House thought the president might want to walk for a short time with four elephants at the Mokolodi game reserve near the capital, Gabarone.

It is, of course, an obvious choice of animal - elephants are the symbol of Mr Bush's Republican party.

Precious minutes

But then there was a hitch. In order to avoid getting trampled to death by the elephants, those who want to walk with them need to spend at least 15 minutes getting acquainted.

The president did get time to touch an elephant briefly
This kind of bilateral meeting involves patting on the head - the elephant's head - gentle, reassuring small talk and the elephant sniffing its interlocutor's human scent.

Not surprisingly, the White House team informed the game reserve that a quarter of an hour with an elephant was too taxing on the schedule of the most powerful man on the planet.

Indeed! Fifteen minutes with an elephant when Mr Bush has only spent 30 minutes in bilateral talks with the country's leader.

So no walking with elephants, merely admiring them and a selection of other creatures of the bush - sorry! - like cheetahs, rhinos and zebras.

Perhaps the wildest animal that the Bushes encountered today was a stray donkey - there are lots of those in Botswana - who wandered across the road, as the presidential motorcade approached.

The animal was not treated as a security threat by the Secret Service.




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