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Leader Wants Nigeria Image Change

June 27, 1998

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) _ Nigeria’s new military leader has told a British envoy that he would do ``everything possible″ to end the international community’s unfavorable view of his West African nation.

Press secretary David Attah relayed Abdulsalam Abubakar’s comments in a statement, adding that the general also renewed his appeal to the world to focus more attention on Nigeria’s opportunities than its problems.

In a sign that years of Nigerian isolation were eroding, Abubakar met Friday with a European Union delegation led by British Foreign Office envoy Tony Lloyd. Discussions included possible ways for Nigeria to return to the world community, officials said.

Oil-rich Nigeria, once known for its comparative wealth amid the poverty of West and Central Africa, instead became known for its abysmal human rights record and its rampant corruption during the five-year rule of Gen. Sani Abacha. Abacha died earlier this month of a heart attack.

Abubakar, though, appears intent on changing that. He has freed dozens of political prisoners and met with opposition figures and diplomats.

An American delegation also was expected in Nigeria soon, lead by Thomas Pickering, the State Department’s third-ranking official and a former ambassador to Nigeria.

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