Accra Mail (Accra)

Ghana: Bush Meets U.S. Peace Corps

Accra — U.S President George W. Bush has paid tribute to American Peace Corps volunteers serving in Africa and urged them to do their best to contribute to human development in the host countries.

"I appreciate your dedication and support to these countries," President Bush said at lunch with volunteer representatives in Ghana in Accra. The lunch was also attended by his wife Laura and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

President Bush arrived in Accra on Tuesday evening on the fourth leg of a five-nation trip to Africa.

He held talks earlier with President John Agyekum Kufuor and addressed a press conference during which he gave the assurance that the U.S was not planning to build new military bases in Africa. He also played down the risk of rivalry with China for influence on the continent.

There are some 136 Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in various sectors, spanning small business developments, education, environment and health in communities.

"Through their contribution and services across the land, Peace Corps volunteers make the world a small place," Peace Corps Country Director Robert Gollege told President Bush.

On behalf of the other volunteers, Melinda Palmers thanked President Bush for taking time off to meet with them.

Since 1961, when Ghana became the first country to welcome Peace Corps Volunteers, nearly 4,500 of them have served in the West African country including participation in Ghana's economic recovery, the promotion of human and natural resources, as well as HIV/AIDS awareness.

On arrival at the American Residency, venue for the luncheon, President Bush had brief interaction with employees and service men working at American facilities in Ghana.

That was after a special rendition of the American anthem by 2007 American idol winner Jordin Brianna Sparks, who was introduced to the gathering by American Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater.

Sparks, who won the reality television show American Idol at the age of 17, making her the youngest winner in the history of the competition, is currently engaged in malaria awareness campaign in Africa.

President Bush, who praised Sparks for singing the anthem so well, also lauded her involvement in the malaria campaign.

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