President George W. Bush on Thursday praised visiting Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua for his commitment to democracy and offered US help in fighting AIDS and malaria.
It is the Nigerian leader's first visit to the White House since taking office in late May after April elections that both Washington and the European Union judged as questionable.
AdvertisementNigeria is the world's fifth largest exporter of petroleum to the United States, and the world's eighth largest oil producer.
Speaking to reporters after their Oval Office meeting, Bush said that his guest "is committed to democracy and rule of law.
"He was very articulate in his desire to make sure that the people of Nigeria understand that their government will be fair and transparent, and will be a government of the people," Bush said.
Bush also praised the Nigerian leader as "committed to seeing to it that compulsory education is followed through on in his country throughout the country, and I admire that. And we want to help you."
Bush said it was in the US national interest to help Nigeria combat the scourges of AIDS and malaria.
Yar'Adua "is strongly committed to helping the Nigerian families affected by these diseases get treatment and help," Bush said.
Bush also said he would ask the US Congress to double the US commitment in programs against AIDS, "because we believe it's in our interests to help you if you so desire."
"It's in our interests from a security perspective; it's in our interests from a moral perspective," he said.
Yar'Adua said the two leaders "discussed security issues and the security within Nigeria," as well as "peace and security on the African continent."
"I think what we have discussed has given me hope," Yar'Adua said.
The United States is Nigeria's most important trade partner, and Yar'Adua's ambition is for Nigeria to join the club of the world's 20 top economic powers by 2020.
Bilateral relations however are not as warm as Thursday's meeting suggests.
Leading Nigerian newspapers have urged the president to maintain his refusal for Nigeria be home to AFRICOM, the Pentagon's newly created US military command for Africa.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visited Nigeria in mid-November in an attempt to sell the idea.
Nigeria is Africa's biggest producer of crude oil with a daily output of 2.6 million barrels. It is also counted among the most corrupt nations on the continent by watchdogs such as Transparency International.
Nigeria's oil rich Niger delta region, home to vast gas and oil reserves, is also a violence-torn area. In the 18 months to June 2007, more than 200 foreigners, most of them oil workers, were kidnapped in the area.