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G8 puts Africa in spotlight after London attacks

July 8, 2005

By Crispian Balmer

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (Reuters) – World leaders put Africa
at the center of their annual summit on Friday, determined the
deadly wave of bombings in London should not overshadow their
final day of talks.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair skipped most of
Thursday’s meetings to handle the aftermath of the attacks, but
he returned to Gleneagles overnight to take charge of
negotiations on a cause he has championed — boosting aid to
Africa.

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations
will hold discussions with the heads of seven African countries
and discuss ways of cutting poverty and fighting disease in the
world’s poorest continent.

At the end of the meeting they are likely to issue a
communique promising to double development aid, although it is
unlikely the pledge will satisfy the expectations generated by
Make Poverty History campaigners ahead of the gathering.

Britain is still hoping to secure a deal to boost aid to
Africa by $25 billion a year by 2010, but some G8 leaders
appear unwilling to put a precise figure or date to the accord
because of uncertainties over the global economy.

The final G8 statement will also promise to tackle global
warming, address economic concerns such as the high price of
oil and underline the leaders’ resolve to defeat terrorism.

The flags of the G8 nations flew at half mast around the
Gleneagles summit center in mourning for Thursday’s rush hour
attacks, which killed at least 37 people.

The G8 leaders rallied around Blair in the wake of the
bombings that Britain says bore “the hallmarks of an al
Qaeda-related” operation, but vowed the explosions would not
stop them pursuing their original agenda.

COMPROMISES AHEAD

The final G8 communiques on both Africa and climate change
look certain to disappoint aid and environmental campaigners
who had billed the Gleneagles summit as a golden chance to
improve the lives of Africans and reverse global warming.

Environmentalists said the proposed climate deal had been
watered down by Washington to the point of being meaningless.
The United States says its economy would suffer from targets to
cut carbon emissions that scientists say cause global warming.

“Thanks to the Bush administration, the world’s biggest
polluters have given little hope to those already suffering
from climate change, especially those in Africa, who will be
hit hardest by climate damage,” said Jennifer Morgan of
environmental group WWF.

Blair has declared the widespread privation and suffering
in Africa “a scar on the conscience of the world” and his G8
agenda has attracted high-profile backing from rock stars who
staged huge Live 8 concerts around the world ahead of the
summit.

But other G8 nations including the United States, Germany
and Italy have rejected a British proposal to double funding
for Africa immediately by borrowing against future aid budgets.

Aid groups are hoping for a deal for an extra $50 billion a
year in total aid for all developing countries by 2010.

“We do expect about $50 billion to be announced. This is
too little too late. Fifty million children will die between
now and 2010. If the G8 leaders are really serious about making
poverty history they need to be providing the money now, not in
five years,” said Romilly Greenhill, policy analyst for
ActionAid.

But as the talks entered their final stages it was still
not clear if all G8 countries would agree to the $50 billion
figure.

The three-day summit is expected to wrap up shortly after 2
p.m. (1300 GMT) with a closing news conference by Blair.