U.S.’s Rice to visit Ethiopia in rare Africa trip
Posted on 30th November 2007
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Ethiopia next week for meetings on the conflicts in the volatile African Great Lakes region and Sudan and Somalia, said the State Department on Thursday.
Rice, a rare visitor to the African continent, will make her third trip to sub-Saharan Africa since becoming secretary of state in 2005. She has previously been to Liberia, Senegal and Sudan but canceled a trip to Africa last July.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Rice would be in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Dec. 5 to attend a meeting of leaders from the African Great Lakes region — Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
“(They) will discuss issues of regional peace and security,” he said.
After her brief Africa trip, Rice will travel to Brussels on Dec. 6 for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers to discuss Afghanistan, Kosovo and other issues, McCormack said, before she returns to Washington on Dec. 7.
McCormack had no details on whether Rice planned to offer any new proposals on how to curb violence in lawless eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a conflict that has brought in the vast central African country’s neighbors.
The conflict in the eastern province reflects the political and ethnic tensions behind Congo’s 1998-2003 war in which six neighboring countries, including Rwanda, invaded Congo to plunder its vast mineral wealth.
Congo’s President Joseph Kabila met President George W. Bush in Washington last month and appealed for U.S. help in trying to stabilize his country. Kabila has been battling to forcibly disarm soldiers in North Kivu province in the east, loyal to renegade Tutsi Gen. Laurent Nkunda.
The United States plans to help train a Congolese army rapid reaction force to tackle the rebels, and the State Department has been negotiating terms of a training contract.
During her two-day visit, Rice will also discuss Somalia and Sudan with African Union members, the United Nations and east African ministers, said McCormack.
In addition, the top U.S. diplomat will meet officials from Ethiopia, which cooperates closely with the United States on counter-terrorism issues.
Tensions have been rising in recent months between Ethiopia and its neighbor Eritrea over its disputed border, with Eritrea accusing the United States of siding with Addis Ababa.
(Reporting by Sue Pleming; editing by Philip Barbara)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Will Travel to Ethiopia and Belgium First Week of December : U.S. Department of State: www.state.gov
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