WASHINGTON -- Vice President George Bush, acting as the president's personal representative, left today for Africa for a seven-nation 14-day trip designed to make the United States more visible on the continent.
Today's trip is the first high-level visit to Africa under the Reagan administration.
Bush is scheduled to visit Cape Verde, Senegal, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Zaire and will stop in Bermuda on his return to Washington. In Nairobi, Kenya on Nov. 19 he will give what he described as a major administration statement on Africa, dealing with the broad outlines of that policy.
Bush, in a pre-trip briefing for reporters, said he would let the host heads of state set the agenda for talks he will hold at each stop, but he expected that the negotiations for the independence of Namibia will come up repeatedly.
He said the U.S. position is that there will be no settlement in Namibia, formerly South West Africa, until there is a withdrawal of Cuban troops from neighboring Angola. Namibia is occupied by troops from South Africa which fears the Cuban troops would move in if the South African military presence were withdrawn.
Asked if thought the Cubans might be persuaded to withdraw from Angola, he said, 'I think there's a good shot at it.'
Although the United States does not maintain diplomatic relations with Angola, he said, 'We are determined to persevere in our dialogue with Angola.'
Bush said, 'We are committed to being a catalyst for peace' in Africa.
He expected several eocnomic issues to come up, including the difficult situation in countries such as Zaire, which have been hit hard by the drop in mineral prices, and the rise in the cost of imports, including energy.
He said, 'The economic situation is rough. It's rough in this country, too. All of us have to do things we wish we didn't have to do.'
Another issue that is expected to arise is U.S. support for a $1.1 billion loan to South Africa from the International Monetary Fund.
He said his answer would be, 'We don't believe isolation is the answer to hman rights problems.'
Bush is expected to return to Washington Nov. 24.
With Bush are assistant Secretary of State for Africa Chester Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Elliott Abrams, and Peace Corps Director Loret Ruppe.