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Bush Names AIDS Czar

President Bush named a former pharmaceutical company executive director of a new $15 billion program to battle the disease in Africa and the Caribbean.

The president, making the announcement Wednesday, said Randall Tobias would have the rank of ambassador. The former chief executive officer for Eli Lilly & Co., will coordinate all the administration's international AIDS/HIV activities for all government departments and agencies as well as faith-based community groups.

The Senate still must confirm Mr. Bush's selection.

"Randy Tobias has a mandate directly from me to get our AIDS initiative up and running as soon as possible," said President Bush, who leaves Monday on a trip to Africa. Tobias would report to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Five weeks ago, the president signed into law the emergency action plan for AIDS relief. The plan will provide $15 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS primarily in 14 African and Caribbean countries.

Tobias, of Indiana, is a major contributor to the Republican Party. He retired from Lilly in 1998. He also has been vice chairman of AT&T and chairman of AT&T International.

"The statistics that describe the HIV/AIDS pandemic are really nearly incomprehensible," Tobias said. "AIDS has already killed almost 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is the number one cause of death. And without intervention it will claim the lives of one quarter of the population in the next decade."

In a CBS News interview, Dr. Paul Zeitz with the Global AIDS Alliance described Tobias as "a henchman" for the drug industry. Zeitz questioned Tobias' stand on less expensive generic AIDS drugs.

The White House responded that the former Eli Lilly Chief will work with ethics officials to deal with any conflicts, reports CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer. A White House official says Tobias will "fully comply with all ethics regulations."