June 30, 2005

Worried Britain calls extra talks before G8 summit

By Madeline Chambers

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain, worried that deals on climatechange and aid for Africa at next week's Group of Eight (G8)summit will fall short of its goals, is hosting last minutetalks to twist the arms of reluctant partners.

Officials, known as sherpas, always meet before summits tothrash out the details of proposed accords, but the two days oftalks called by Britain, the current G8 chairman, show it isunhappy with the degree of agreement reached so far.

"We are continuing negotiations because we want to get thebest possible package," said one British official. "We believewe have made a lot of progress and believe we can go further."

Officials said it is unusual for such hard negotiations totake place this late. "We have set ourselves ambitious targetsand want to get as close as possible to them," the Britishofficial said of this weekend's talks.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, distracted from Britain's G8Presidency by an election battle in May, wants leaders tocommit themselves to combating African poverty and actingagainst climate change.

But he has met opposition led by Washington, which haswatered down key passages in the draft communique.

One G8 diplomat said leaders faced a stormy summit as Blairshowed little sign of wanting to compromise.


Anti-poverty campaigners want the G8 to boost aid to theworld's poorest continent, cut debt and remove trade barriers.

Officials say Blair wants a comprehensive package forAfrica, including concrete decisions on governance and securitystructures plus extra resources.

"Debt relief and aid must be accompanied by action ontrade, action on transparency, tackling corruption and openingup economic development and it is this comprehensive agenda Ibelieve will be discussed," British Finance Minister GordonBrown told parliament.

"We have come a long way but still have a long way to go,"said Brown.

Some progress has been made. G8 finance ministers agreedearlier this month to wipe out more than $40 billion of poornations' debt and the EU has agreed to boost aid by 2015.

But Washington and others oppose a more ambitious plan toraise an extra $50 billion in aid.

A deal on combating climate change looks harder still. EvenBlair has admitted clinching a deal will be "very difficult."

British officials say they want "concrete actions" totackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions but arehaving trouble convincing Washington that there is even aproblem.

The United States questions the scientific basis for globalwarming and refuses to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol aimed atcutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Leaked drafts of the G8 communique show the language hasbeen watered down and plans to fund research have been removed.

(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren)