ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Secretary of State George P. Shultz, nearing the end of his six-nation tour of Africa, paid glowing tribute Tuesday to President Felix Houphouet-Boigny as a wise man who has presided over one of the most productive economies in Africa.
At a press conference, Shultz described his talks with the 81-year-old leader as "an important, educational, thoughtful meeting."
U.S. relations with Ivory Coast are so good that U.S. officials said there were no contentious issues for Shultz to discuss with Houphouet-Boigny, who has ruled the country since independence in 1960.
Ivory Coast follows the sort of free-market economic policies that the United States is urging on other African nations, and Shultz said that as a result of this, the country's per capita annual income of $1,100 is so much higher than its neighbors' that U.S. economic aid is virtually unneeded.
Liberian Economy Troubled
Shultz arrived Monday night in Abidjan and is scheduled to leave early today for Liberia, a country with an economy so troubled that the primary U.S. objective, according to one senior official, is to "try to keep the economy from going totally down the tubes."
The secretary of state and most of his official party spent Tuesday in Abidjan, a city of towering skyscrapers, wide and tree-shaded boulevards and impressive French restaurants. They were put up at the Hotel Ivoire, a sprawling complex that includes a wide variety of diversions ranging from a casino to an ice-skating rink.
A few miles outside the capital, Ivorians live in teeming villages of tin-roof shacks. A taxi driver carrying two reporters along the main road from Abidjan to the Ghanaian border was stopped three times by the police. Twice the driver was able to talk his way past the roadblock, but the third time he cheerfully handed the policeman a worn bank note worth a little more than $3, the going rate in such instances.
Shultz and Houphouet-Boigny did not appear together in public, although they sat next to each other in high-backed velvet chairs to watch dancers from the Sendufo tribe perform a program of traditional dances. Reporters were permitted to attend the performance, held in a parking lot outside the presidential palace, but the public was barred.
At his press conference, Shultz was careful not to disagree with Houphouet-Boigny. He even shaded his usual position on the war in Chad to conform to the Ivorian president's view.
He said Houphouet-Boigny agrees with the United States and France that Libyan troops must leave Chad "so that Chadians can control their own country."
"But we must think beyond that," he said, "and here again, the process of national reconciliation that the (Ivory Coast) president speaks of is very important. Chadians have been scrapping with each other almost throughout their history."
Previously, Shultz had insisted that the conflict in Chad, which began as a civil war more than 20 years ago, has evolved into a war of aggression by Libya against its southern neighbor. Shultz has said frequently on this trip that the only thing needed to bring peace to Chad is withdrawal of the Libyan troops.