Activists urge Bush to keep his pledge

Africa activists warned US President George Bush on Friday that “real” leaders keep their promises, as he met Aids victims just hours after Congress limited funding for his multi-billion dollar plan to fight the virus.

Bush jetted into Uganda for a four-hour stop on an African tour highlighting the proposed $15-billion plan, which originally drew a warm reception from the pro-Africa, anti-Aids lobby.

But on Thursday, a House of Representatives committee in Washington approved a $2-billion Aids spending package, about a billion dollars less than allowed for under the plan Bush signed in May.

Africa lobby group DATA, co-founded by U2 rocker and Africa campaigner Bono, expressed extreme disappointment at the move.

“It is deeply disappointing that the House turned away from America’s promise to Africa by proposing deep cuts in spending promised to fight Aids and poverty,” said Data Executive Director Jamie Drummond said.

“As the cameras are clicking in Africa, the House is cutting funds in Washington, DC,” said Drummond in a statement.

“While the president is holding the hands of people in Africa, he needs to be forcing the hands of people in Congress.

“This is what the president has asked for, and now the president and the Congress must work together to make good on their promise by delivering the resources that will save millions of lives”, Drummond said.

“Americans know the difference between promises made and promises kept—real leadership means keeping your promise.”

US Secretary of State Colin Powell late on Thursday expressed disappointment at the House’s move, but officials said they would try to make up for the shortfall during the five-year plan.

“We will make the best use of the money that Congress has provided to us,” he said.

“And I’ll wait and see the completed action and see how this ultimately emerges from the Congress.”

The full Senate voted to allocate the $3-billion, so the amount allocated under final spending bills will be subject to haggling among the administration and the two Houses of Congress.

Lawmakers and officials pointed out that the figure of $3-billion was supposed to be a ceiling for funding, rather than a stipulated amount of spending.

Bush on Friday toured an Aids treatment centre and met victims of the disease in a four-hour stop in Uganda, the fourth leg of his African tour. - Sapa-AFP

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