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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 July, 2003, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Bush 'undecided' on Liberia
US President George Bush (left) stands next to Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade as they listen to national anthems upon Bush's arrival at the presidential palace in Dakar 8 July 2003
Mr Bush was holding talks with the Senegalese president
US President George W Bush has said the United States has not yet decided whether to send peacekeepers to help end the conflict in Liberia.

But he added that Washington would work with the United Nations and western African states to maintain the current ceasefire in the country.

Mr Bush was speaking in Senegal at the start of a five-day tour of Africa.

On Monday, a 20-strong US military team arrived in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, in what is being seen as a possible forerunner of a larger US peacekeeping force to end the conflict there.

Mr Bush's plane landed in Dakar early on Tuesday and he headed straight into talks with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

After that, he visited Goree Island, a trading post where African slaves were shipped to the Americas.

In a powerful speech there, Mr Bush paid tribute to the "persistence and courage of African Americans" who fought against slavery.

He did not apologise for slavery, but called it "one of the greatest crimes of history" that stirred America's commitment to freedom.

Mr Bush also pledged to work as "equal partners" with African nations to improve trade ties, fight terrorism and tackle Aids.

Mr Bush has already pledged to spend $15bn to fight the spread of Aids, which is ravaging Africa.

He also wants to promote economic transparency - $10bn in aid is available to countries which promise to fight corruption and open their markets.

It is his first visit to Africa as president and will take in five countries in five days.

The White House says the fast-moving schedule covering Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria is aimed at underlining US support for the continent.

The US president is travelling with Secretary Of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Mr Bush's visit to Africa is more for American interests than it is for Africa
Eddy Ukorah, Lagos, Nigeria

The BBC's West Africa correspondent, Paul Welsh, says politicians there believe Mr Bush is more interested in photo opportunities to defend his interests at home than in West Africa's problems.

Some believe the tour is aimed primarily at winning the crucial support of African American voters - who traditionally vote Democrat - in next year's US presidential election.

Correspondents say Mr Bush is not popular among many Africans, particularly since his invasion of Iraq.

On Monday, protesters in Dakar took to the streets shouting "Bush, butcher".

Liberian demands

Liberia's brutal conflict is meanwhile dominating the region.

Goree Island

Nigeria has led West African nations in urging the US to contribute up to 2,000 troops to a task force for Liberia which would also include 3,000 African soldiers.

Liberian President Charles Taylor has agreed in principle to leave the country, but is demanding a US presence.

One priority for Mr Bush is to secure African support for his war against terrorism.

Since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, the US has been much more concerned about unstable parts of the continent as potential breeding grounds for terrorism.

Attacks blamed on al-Qaeda have been launched in Kenya and Tanzania.

US officials have talked of seeking more base access and pursuing more training exercises in the region in an effort to prevent similar attacks.

The BBC's Paul Anstiss
"The United States is reluctant to get involved in another Somalia"

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