LUANDA, Angola - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, bringing her democracy and development tour of Africa to oil-rich Angola on Sunday, encouraged the war-ravaged country to continue reforms and pledged to boost trade ties with a major energy producer.
Clinton, on the third leg of a seven-nation trip, came to the Angolan capital to reinforce America's presence in a country where it increasingly is competing for resources with China. Beijing has loaned Angola billions of dollars in recent years without pressing reform.
After meeting Foreign Minister Assuncao Afonso dos Anjos, Clinton urged the government to build on successful legislative elections held in 2008 - the first in 16 years - through presidential elections and dealing with the legacy of its 27-year civil war.
"We look forward to Angola building on this positive step, including the adoption of a new constitution, investigating and prosecuting past human rights abuses and holding a timely, free and fair presidential election," she said at a news conference with dos Anjos.
"So, Mr. Minister, we have our work cut out for us," she said.
A senior U.S. aide said Clinton stressed the need for greater accountability and transparency in the petroleum sector, particularly with revenue from exports, which account for nearly 60 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private diplomatic exchange, said Clinton also encouraged the Angolans to explore renewable energy projects, particularly hydroelectricity. The U.S. is providing Angola with technical assistance on two hydroelectric projects and Angola would like to expand that to 25, the official said.
Clinton plans to meet Monday with President Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled for 30 years and has been criticized for postponing a presidential vote that was scheduled for this year.
Angola, a former Cold War battleground, supplies vast amounts of petroleum and liquid natural gas to the U.S. market. In June, Angola surpassed Nigeria as Africa's largest petroleum producer. Last year, Angola overtook Saudi Arabia as the leading source of crude oil for China.
Clinton played down concerns about Chinese encroachment.
"I am not looking at what anyone else does in Angola," she said. "I am looking at what the United States can do to further and deepen our relationship and provide assistance and support for the changes the Angolan government is undertaking."
She also noted that the U.S. and China were co-operating on how to ensure that investment in Africa's energy sector promotes development.
U.S. officials say Clinton's visit is intended to demonstrate the Obama administration's interest in keeping Washington in Africa's energy game as well as well co-operating with it on climate change.
Later Sunday, Clinton witnessed the signing of a corporate responsibility agreement between U.S. oil giant Chevron and the Angolan government that promotes small-and medium-scale farming.
Despite its oil wealth, Angola is mired in poverty as a result of the destruction of most of infrastructure during the war, which broke out after its 1975 independence from Portugal.
The war ended in 2002, leading to major energy sector investments. But the country ranks near the bottom of U.N. development statistics and the gap between rich and poor is among the worst in the world.
Dos Anjos said the government was committed to addressing the imbalance. He appealed for patience, noting it takes time to rebuild roads, factories and agriculture as well as educate a population to do more than menial labour.
"We are asking for more time," he said. "We have the resources and we have the willingness and we can ensure a better life for our people. It is not a magic wand that will resolve this. We need programs that will gradually build wealth and create welfare."
Clinton, who has visited Kenya and South Africa on her trip, was to leave Angola on Monday and head to the Democratic Republic of Congo. From there she will travel to Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.
On the Net:
State Department background on Angola: http://www.state.gov/p/af/ci/ao/