- President Omar Bongo of Gabon yesterday met US President George Bush in Washington during his four-day stay in the US capital. In an effort to improve US-Gabonese ties, President Bongo pledged support for the "war on terrorism" and signed an "open skies agreement" between the two countries.
President Bongo is in Washington on a four-day visit that includes meetings at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a dinner sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa, in addition to meetings with top-level US government officials at the White House and the US Department of State, according to a statement by the Office of the Gabonese Presidency.
The purpose of President Bongo's visit was said to be "to consolidate the two countries' strong bilateral relationship and to explore additional areas of cooperation, including regional stability and environmental protection, most notably the Congo River Basin Initiative."
According to White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan, "the two leaders discussed Gabonese and African support for the war on terrorism. They talked about the need to address the trafficking in persons, and they talked about the possibility for economic growth and development in the Gabonese republic and the region."
At the US State Department, American Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Gabonese Minister of State for Transportation and Civil Aviation Paulette Missambo signed an "Open Skies air transport agreement," which is designed to ease air traffic between the two countries.
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher explained that the "agreement modernises US-Gabonese aviation relations by allowing airlines to make commercial decisions with minimal government intervention." He added that, establishing "Open Skies" as the basis of US-Gabonese aviation relations was "an important step toward spurring trade, investment, tourism, and cultural exchanges between the two nations."
Gabon's ties with the US are not insignificant. The Central African country is the third largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, after Nigeria and Angola. The US' interest in oil imports from Central and West Africa has increased after ties with the Arab world are deteriorating. Gabon exports petroleum products, timber and mineral resources to the US.
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