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Clinton Discusses HIV, Syria With South Africans

by Matthew Lee
Tuesday Aug 7, 2012

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, visiting officials in the country with the world's highest rate of HIV infection, said Tuesday that global efforts to stop the virus "have saved hundreds of thousands of lives."

In South Africa's capital, Pretoria, Clinton met with Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in the second cabinet-level strategic dialogue between the two nations. South Africa is a member of the U.N. Security Council, and the U.S. also wants its support in dealing with the worsening crisis in Syria.

In South Africa, 5.7 million people - 17.8 percent of the population - have tested positive for HIV. PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has spent $3.2 billion on anti-retroviral drugs and HIV prevention programs in South Africa since 2004. The program was initiated by President George W. Bush and has been continued by President Barack Obama's administration.

On Wednesday in Cape Town, Clinton will preside at a ceremony at which the U.S. will begin shifting administrative control of the AIDS initiative and treatment implementation to the South Africans. The handover will take five years.

Clinton played down U.S. concerns over South Africa's reluctance to support western-backed initiatives at the United Nations, where South Africa is wrapping up a two-year elected term on the Security Council. South Africa abstained on the last Security Council resolution on Syria, which would have called for sanctions for non-compliance with Kofi Annan's peace plan. The resolution failed on a double veto by Russia and China.

"As crisis and opportunities arise there are tough issues that we have to tackle together," Clinton said. "We do not always see eye-to-eye on these issues. ... Sometimes we will disagree, as friends do."

Clinton and Nkoana-Mashabane pledged to intensify cooperation in dealing with crises in African hotspots, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

"We believe as partners on the continent we can do more about stability and the way we are going to foster economic growth and security," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Later, at a U.S.-South Africa business summit, Clinton hailed the growing trade ties between the two countries. She noted that two-way trade had shot up 21 percent to almost $22 billion from 2010 to 2011.

Nearly 98 percent of South Africa's exports to the U.S. enter the country duty-free under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is set to expire in 2015. Nkoana-Mashabane urged the U.S. Congress to extend the act and Clinton said the administration would work with lawmakers on it.

Clinton is in South Africa at the midpoint of an 11-day tour that has already taken her to Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya and Malawi. After the stop in Cape Town, she will travel on to Nigeria, Ghana and Benin before moving on to Turkey, where she will have meetings to discuss Syria.

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