African leaders want US to accelerate aid

President Bush told African leaders on Monday he would "work harder and faster" to accelerate aid to the region under a heavily promoted but little-used program after they complained the system was too bureaucratic.

Bush has held up the Millennium Challenge Account as a &to=http:// ' target=_blank>landmark program to provide badly needed assistance to nations that undertake political and economic reforms. In his original proposal in March 2002, he proposed $5 billion for the program by 2006.

Yet three years later, the program has only committed $110 million to Madagascar and $215 million to Honduras. On Monday, the program's board approved $175 million for Nicaragua and $110 million for Cape Verde.

But of that money, only $117,500 has actually been paid out, tells Reuters.

The presidents of Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Niger visited Mr. Bush at the White House as part of the administration's effort to promote democracy and &to=http:// ' target=_blank>economic development in Africa and to highlight the policies it has pursued to reduce poverty and disease there.

The leaders - all of whose countries held democratic elections last year - generally praised the United States for trying to do more to assist Africa. But they said they were disappointed that the administration had not done more to accelerate disbursements of aid through the Millennium Challenge Account, the White House's primary channel for dispensing money to poor countries that show committment to democracy and sound economic policies.

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