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Albright Visits Mongolia

May 2, 1998

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (AP) _ Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, winding up her weeklong trip to Asia, on Friday preached the virtues of democracy and free markets to the leaders of a still mostly nomadic Mongolia struggling to modernize their country.

With about one-third of the 2.2 million people here living in poverty, the once-Soviet-controlled country is trying to make the transition to capitalism. American and Japanese billboards along the highway are beginning to outnumber those in Russian.

But except for a few oil prospectors, Mongolia is still desperately in search of outside investors. It has received $12 million in aid from the United States in the past five years.

In a statement, Albright reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to close cooperation with Mongolia. She met with the new prime minister, Tsakhya Elbagdorj, who is pursuing a painful economic program in which prices for electricity and food are rising beyond most people’s capacity to pay. The country’s per capita income is about $320 per year.

Albright was proceeded in 1990 and again in 1991 by then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III. And first lady Hillary Clinton visited here in 1994.

Only a few dozen people were on hand to quietly watch her motorcade pass through this sparsely populated capital, but a senior U.S. official said, ``It’s a visit that will be talked about five to 10 years.″

In a joint statement, Albright and the prime minister said, ``Both parties advocate the creation of a favorable environment for promotion of foreign investment and bilateral trade, and agreed they want their future commercial relationship to develop.″

Mongolia is landlocked between Russia and China and eager to assert its independence. But its yearning for modern life also appears to be limited as nomads continue their centuries-old lifestyle.

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