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Defiant G8 agrees major aid boost for Africa

July 8, 2005

By Andrew Gray

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (Reuters) – World leaders agreed on
Friday to more than double aid for Africa to $50 billion,
presenting the deal as a message of hope that countered the
hatred behind the London bomb attacks.

The announcement was the culmination of a Group of Eight
summit of rich nations hosted by British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, who had been determined to focus on African poverty
despite Thursday’s attacks, which killed more than 50 people.

“We speak today in the shadow of terrorism but it will not
obscure what we came here to achieve,” Blair declared, flanked
by fellow leaders of the G8 and seven of their African
counterparts on the steps of the Gleneagles hotel in Scotland.

“It isn’t the end of poverty in Africa — but it is the
hope that it can be ended,” he said.

The deal was broadly welcomed by African leaders and some
high-profile activists including singer Bob Geldof, who
organized the massive Live 8 rock concerts around the world to
pressure the G8. They said it could save countless lives.

“I see there are encouraging signs that the continent’s
problems are going to be addressed realistically and acceptably
by the G8 and Prime Minister Tony Blair,” said Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo, the chairman of the African Union.

But others said the deal fell far short of the hopes of
millions inspired by the global Make Poverty History campaign
and the concerts.

CHIRAC DEFENDS CLIMATE DEAL

The G8 leaders also agreed to start talks on global warming
with major emerging economies such as India and China, whose
rapid development is propelling them into the front rank of
fossil fuel users.

Environmentalists said the declaration was a missed
opportunity to take concrete action on climate change.

But French President Jacques Chirac agreed with Blair that
the deal was a step forward as it brought the United States,
which refuses to sign up to cuts in heat-trapping greenhouse
gases backed by other G8 nations, back into the quest for an
international consensus.

“The deal we reached does not go as far as we would have
wished but it re-establishes indispensable dialogue and
cooperation,” he said.

On the world economy, the leaders called for more
investment in refining as well as greater access for foreign
investors to oil-rich states to tackle record high oil prices.

They pledged to end farm export subsidies — a major demand
of African nations who complain that rich countries are forcing
their farmers out of business. But they did not set a date.

They also called for renewed efforts to conclude a new
phase of world trade liberalisation by the end of next year.

On the foreign policy front, they agreed a package of aid
worth up to $3 billion to help the Palestinian Authority and
foster peace in the Middle East.

ACTIVISTS DIVIDED ON AFRICA

The main focus on the summit was Africa, where campaigners
say a child dies due to poverty every 10 seconds. Blair has
called the state of the continent a “scar on the conscience of
the world.”

The G8 said annual development aid to Africa would increase
by $25 billion by 2010, more than doubling the 2004 level.

They also said overall annual development aid — currently
around $50 billion — would increase by $50 billion by 2010.

“A great justice has been done,” Geldof said at a news
conference with fellow campaigner Bono, the U2 lead singer.

“The world spoke out and the politicians listened,” Bono
said. “Now, if the world keeps an eye out, they will keep their
promises.”

But other campaigners said the money was needed now if the
world was meet its goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger
by 2015. They also accused the G8 of only pretending to want to
give farmers from poor countries more access to their markets.

“More aid is a good thing, but it is still too little too
late, and much of it is not new money,” said Amanda Sserumaga,
Uganda country director for the charity ActionAid.

Not all development specialists are convinced that a
massive aid boost is the answer to Africa’s problems. Some
question whether African states can absorb such a large
increase in a short time.

Russia, the G8 odd man out because of its comparatively low
living standards and Western criticism of its democratic
record, takes over the presidency of the group for the first
time from next January and will host the annual summit in St
Petersburg.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s key themes would be
energy and education. He struck a conciliatory note over the
prospect of anti-globalization protesters.

“The problems that they raise deserve attention and
discussions. I do not rule out working with anti-globalization
activists,” he said.

To see the full texts issued by the G8 summit, click on
http:/www.g8.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate
/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1119518704554




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