WASHINGTON — President Bush on Thursday praised Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko for "setting the stage for national reconciliation" in neighboring Angola and vowed closer U.S.-Zaire economic ties.
Bush agreed to encourage more U.S. investment in Zaire and lent his support to new loans it is seeking from the International Monetary Fund, the two leaders said after a two-hour White House session.
It was the President's first White House meeting with an African head of state.
Mobutu, speaking in French at the outdoor ceremony, said his meeting and lunch with Bush had been one of "warmth and friendship."
He also sought to defend his regime's human rights record.
"Zaire can be ranked among those countries which observe the rule of law, not to be confused or mistaken with any incidental mishaps that are attributable to an administration or an individual," he said.
Supports U.S. Africa Policy
Mobutu has long supported U.S. policy goals in Africa. However, his regime has been accused by Amnesty International of widespread human-rights abuses.
Still, Mobutu noted that the U.N. Commission on Human Rights has withdrawn his country from the list of nations it monitors for human rights.
"I informed the President of the arrangements and measures of protection (for human rights) which have been set up in Zaire for some years now," Mobutu said.
Bush observed in his remarks that he is the sixth U.S. President to work with Mobutu. "The strong ties of friendship between Zaire and the United States endure and prosper," he said.
He called Mobutu "one of our most valued friends" in Africa.
Mobutu, who has also met with other Administration officials and with congressional leaders, is to meet today with Vice President Dan Quayle.
Bush warmly praised Mobutu for his role in bringing about the recent cease-fire in Angola, where civil war has raged for 14 years.