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Two years after shunning Nigeria to show his disapproval of a military dictatorship, U-S President Bill Clinton lavished praise on the West African nation’s 15-month-old democracy.

But he warned of the dangers of ethnic and religious hatreds.

Clinton told the National Assembly of a shared fight for democracy, prosperity and humanity.

He said Nigeria’s size and oil wealth gave it the potential to lift the entire African continent.

Clinton is on a three-day trip to Africa.

Before he left, the White House announced that he would make an unscheduled stop in Egypt to meet President Hosni Mubarak.

Answering questions before his speech, Clinton said he did not have hopes for a Mideast breakthrough resulting from the meeting.

On his first tour of Africa, in 1998, Clinton deliberately bypassed Nigeria to make a pointed statement of disapproval of General Sani Abacha and his iron rule.

Abacha died in 1998, and last year Nigerians elected Olusegun Obasanjo as their president.

Clinton applauded Nigeria’s efforts in tackling corruption, freeing the press and shedding light on human rights violations.

He called Nigeria’s turn toward democracy the most important transition in Africa since South Africa ended apartheid.

Clinton also said he plans to announce additional assistance for primary schools and disease prevention, fattening an aid package that has grown from seven (m) million dollars to 108 (m) million in two years.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“People all around the world will know Nigerian for its music and its art. For its Nobel prize winners and its super falcons. For its to peace keeping and its leadership in Africa and around the world. In other words, people will know Nigeria as a great nation.”
SUPER CAPTION: Bill Clinton, U-S President

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“I’m here because your fight – your fight for democracy and human rights for equity and economic growth, for peace and tolerance – your fight is America’s fight and the world’s fight. ”
SUPER CAPTION: Bill Clinton, U-S President

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“The world honours your choice to take the army out of politics and make it a pillar of a democracy state.”
SUPER CAPTION: Bill Clinton, U-S President

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“You have a chance to build a new Nigeria. We have a chance to build a lasting network of ties between Africa and the U-S. I know it will not be easy to walk the road but you have already endured such stiff challenges. You have beaten such long odds to get this far. The road to freedom is the only road worth taking. I hope as president it have helped a little to take us a few steps down that road together. I hope you will remember what I said about our interdependence. Yes you need us no because for a fleeting glimpse in time were are the richest nation. The rich and the poor often change places. What endures is our common humanity.”
SUPER CAPTION: Bill Clinton, U-S President

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