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Nigeria's new president visits Obama at White House to discuss Boko Haram

By Andrew V. Pestano
Nigeria's new president visits Obama at White House to discuss Boko Haram
In January, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos during the country's general elections where Kerry urged the candidates to accept the election results. Buhari won the election, defeating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. File Photo by State Department

WASHINGTON, July 20 (UPI) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House on Monday to discuss the ongoing conflict against Boko Haram, an Islamic State affiliate.

Nigeria is looking for U.S. assistance in combating Boko Haram, but the United States refuses to sell the country weapons because of concerns over the Nigerian army's human rights record.

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Under former president Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria turned down some assistance by the United States to combat the militant Islamist group.

Buhari is also expected to look for help from the United States to recover billions of dollars apparently stolen by former Nigerian officials, but evidence that the money was stolen must first be delivered.

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Corruption will also be on the agenda during Buhari's four-day visit, as he campaigned on ridding the country of illicit behavior by officials.

On Monday, Buhari had breakfast with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and will meet with West African diplomats, World Bank executives, and members of the U.S. Congress. On Tuesday, he will hold a town hall meeting with fellow Nigerians.

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The visit shows the United States' "commitment to strengthening and expanding our partnership with Nigeria's new government," according to the White House.

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Obama regarded Nigeria as one of the most important countries in the world, adding that the peaceful transition to a new government after elections in March is a testament of the country's commitment to democracy. Nigeria is Africa's most populated country, has the largest economy and produces the most oil.

Buhari was the first opposition candidate to win an election since the end of military rule in Nigeria in 1999. He took office in May.

The United States sent surveillance flights over Nigeria last year to help locate the more than 200 girls that Boko Haram kidnapped in Chibok, inciting the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign.

Boko Haram was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 2013. The militant Islamic group seeks to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and has ruthlessly targeted civilians. The group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March and now calls itself the "West African province."

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