US says Africa important but no apology for Trump

US President Donald Trump. (Evan Vucci, AP, File)
US President Donald Trump. (Evan Vucci, AP, File)

New York - US Ambassador Nikki Haley told African envoys on Thursday that "Africa is very important for the United States", but she didn't apologise for President Donald Trump's vulgar comment about the continent as they had demanded, the chair of the African Group said.

Equatorial Guinea's UN ambassador, Anatolio Ndong Mba, told two reporters after the closed meeting requested by Haley that "we do hope that that (apology) will come", perhaps from Trump to African leaders at their summit in Ethiopia on January 28-29.

Ndong Mba said the 54-nation African Group at the United Nations gave Haley a "specific recommendation" but he refused to disclose it. Other diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to speak publicly, said it was to have Trump send a message to leaders at the summit.

Trump referred to African nations as "shithole countries" last week in dismissing a bipartisan immigration proposal, several participants at the meeting said. The president denied using that language.

The African Group issued a statement last Friday condemning Trump's "outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks" and demanding a retraction and apology.

'Very friendly' and 'very frank'

Ndong Mba said Haley told the ambassadors she wasn't at the meeting and wasn't sure what Trump said, but noted that "the president always has been talking very high of Africa".

"But she regretted all this situation that has been created," Ndong Mba said. "She said she regretted that a lot."

He called the meeting "very friendly" and "very frank".

"We appreciate the fact that she came, and she talked about all the cooperation between the United States and Africa, and that Africa is very important for the United States," Ndong Mba said.

Haley didn't mention anything about Trump's reported remarks in a tweet about her visit.

"Thank you to the Africa Group for meeting today," she said. "We discussed our long relationship and history of combatting HIV, fighting terrorism, and committing to peace throughout the region."

The African Union, the 55-member continental body, and a number of African nations have expressed shock and condemnation over Trump's remark.

Concern about the Trump administration was growing across Africa, the world's second most populous continent, even before the president's comment, over proposed deep cuts to US foreign aid and a shift in focus in Africa toward countering extremism.

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