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Ebola crisis complicates African summit in Washington

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

WASHINGTON — With about 50 African leaders coming to Washington for a summit this week, the Obama administration had to adjust for a last-minute development: the deadly Ebola virus.

Two West African heads of state, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma, have sent their regrets, choosing to stay home and deal with an outbreak that has killed at least 729 people and threatens to spread.

Now the Ebola outbreak has necessarily taken a more prominent place in event planning. White House officials stress that they are taking all precautions to screen delegations to ensure the disease does not spread.

In organizing the first-of-its kind gathering, the administration is still betting the event will burnish its credentials on U.S.-Africa relations while broadcasting a hopeful new message about the future of the continent.

Advisers to the president say they want to signal the administration's growing engagement with the entire continent, emphasizing an inclusive “all-Africa approach” to diplomatic relations.

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