September 16, 2005

Bill Clinton wheels and deals at his summit

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton wheeled
and dealed on Friday at his Clinton Global Initiative summit,
yielding promises from global leaders to do things to make the
world a better place and bringing the value of aid commitments
over two days to nearly $500 million.

Friday's pledges announced by organizers included more
clean water for Africa, an Arab entrepreneurship initiative and
the assignment of a youth corps to help in relief, recovery and
rebuilding efforts in the U.S. Gulf states devastated by
Hurricane Katrina.

Created by Clinton, the three-day conference was in full
swing on Friday. Thursday's opening day of the summit -- where
attending leaders were pressed for pledges to do something good
for the world -- brought promises of more than $200 million for
African economic development and to fight HIV/AIDS.

Over the first two days of the summit, Clinton has yielded
150 concrete pledges.

Friday's events were kicked off with a session between
Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Palestinian Foreign
Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, where the pair discussed the future
of relations in the Middle East.

"We had a very good session on the Middle East and I've had
several more people tell me they want to invest there," said
Clinton, in his element in the political art of making a deal.

Clinton said he also secured a much-appreciated pledge on
Friday from charity organization World Vision to spend $20
million over five years to bring clean water to half a million
people in Ghana, Mali, Niger and Ethiopia.

"There are at least 1 billion people in the world, most of
them children, who never get a clear glass of water," said
Clinton. "That was something that really touched me."

A four-ring circus of activity swirled through four floors
of a midtown Manhattan hotel as each focus area -- poverty,
religious conflict, global warming and stamping out corruption
-- held concurrent workshops with political leaders and other
world figures weighing in.

With 800 participants attending, Clinton held a flurry of
behind-the-scenes meetings.

In the basement, the hotel's "Business Floor," Clinton
dipped in and out of private rooms for bilateral talks aimed at
investment in poverty-stricken areas and in social action.

After a friendly embrace from Ukrainian President Viktor
Yushchenko, Clinton introduced him to a Canadian businessman
who was apparently keen to invest in the former Soviet state.

In another room, Clinton huddled with Colombian President
Alvaro Uribe who was deep in talks about possible oil
exploration deals and how best to curb drug trafficking.

(Additional reporting by Samira Nanda and Chip East)