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BUSH ASSURES AFRICA: U.S. NOT EXPANDING

Africans worry that America wants to build military power there.

In a country teeming with resources the world covets, President Bush sought to soothe African fears about American interests on the continent Wednesday. He said the United States isn't aiming to make Africa into a base for greater military power or a proxy battleground with China, which is rapidly developing economic and political ties there.

The desire for Africa's vast raw materials - oil, gold, diamonds, minerals, crops and more - has a long and often violent and exploitative history. That's especially true in this tropical nation on the shores of West Africa, which is exploiting a new offshore oil discovery.

So it came as little surprise that Bush's talk about how U.S. generosity has made strides against disease and poverty encountered some skepticism here about the underlying American agenda.

Bush sought to deal with suspicions about the creation of a new U.S. military command dedicated to Africa.

Nations such as Libya, Nigeria and South Africa have expressed fears that the plan signals an unwanted expansion of American power on the continent or is a cover for protecting Africa's oil on behalf of America. Bush said Ghana's President, John Kufuor, bluntly told him "you're not going to build any bases in Ghana."

"I know there's rumors in Ghana, 'All Bush is coming to do is try to convince you to put a big military base here,'" Bush said. "That's baloney."

Instead, Bush said the new command was aimed at more effectively reorganizing U.S. military efforts related to Africa under one hierarchy and to strengthen African nations' peacekeeping, trafficking, anti-terror and other efforts.

On China, Bush insisted "we can pursue agendas without creating a sense of competition." Still, he made his argument clear: The United States is the better and kinder partner, because it aims to improve African lives while nations like China focus on commercial opportunity.

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