US ready to send troops to Liberia

President George Bush leaves Washington tomorrow for a five-nation tour of Africa that the White House hopes will highlight a new aid package to fight Aids and strengthen ties with governments achieving economic and democratic reform. However, fighting in Liberia threatens to obscure the message.

The trip marks only the third time that a US president has visited sub-Saharan Africa. And it is only the second time that Mr Bush will have set foot on the continent. But the trip comes at an awkward time as Washington struggles to decide whether to send troops to Liberia to help avert further bloodshed.

The signs this weekend are that Mr Bush will indeed authorise deploying 1,000 to 2,000 American troops to lead a peacekeeping mission to the capital, Monrovia, which will otherwise be made up of soldiers from the 15-country Economic Community of West African States, or Ecowas.

Mr Bush confirmed yesterday that this was under consideration. "We are talking to Ecowas countries right now to determine what the nature of a peacekeeping force might look like," he told CNN. Officials added that US military experts were also on their way to the region to assess the situation there.

There is concern that a failure to respond now to the Liberia crisis will sap credibility from the President's visit to Africa. The country, which was founded by freed American slaves in 1822, is in chaos as rebels opposed to President Charles Taylor continue to encircle Monrovia. Fighting over the last four years has driven a third of Liberia's three million people from their homes.

But US officials have strongly signalled that a commitment of US troops will be contingent on President Taylor agreeing first to leave office. Nigeria has tentatively offered him asylum. This weekend, President Taylor repeated a promise to stand down, but not until after peacekeepers are in place.

Speaking to African reporters, Mr Bush outlined what he said was America's national interest in helping African governments fight Aids and instigate reforms. The President, who will visit Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Nigeria, also plans to press for co-operation on fighting terrorism.

"It's in our national interest that Africa becomes a prosperous place, it's in our interest that people will continue to fight terror together," he said during a round-table interview with reporters. "It's in our interest that when we find suffering, we deal with it."

Critics continue to contend that US interests in Africa have to do with military co-operation and oil. It was reported yesterday that the Pentagon is pushing for access to facilities in both sub-Saharan and northern Africa. But Mr Bush will emphasise a recently passed package of $15bn to help Africa fight Aids over the next five years - an initiative that has won praise from health and development organisations.

The President has also stressed stirring awareness in America of the Aids crisis, which has killed about 15 million in Africa. "It's important for our fellow citizens to realise that while we live a relatively luxurious life throughout our society, there is a pandemic taking place that's destroying a lot of people, ruining families," he said. "I want to use this trip to say, 'Here's an example of what is possible.'"

Slavery will take centre-stage on Tuesday when Mr Bush opens his tour on Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, which was the departing point for thousands of Africans before they were shipped to the US for lives of servitude. Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser, last week called slavery America's "birth defect". She gave no indication, however, that Mr Bush would use the occasion to apologise for slavery.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Arts and Entertainment

Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £160 per day + mileage and expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: This out...

KS2 supply teacher

£80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting fo...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album