July 3, 2005

Britain’s Brown vows ‘crusade’ against poverty

By Andrew Gray

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - British finance minister GordonBrown, declaring the fight against poverty "the greatest moralcrusade of our times," vowed on Saturday to work for more debtrelief, aid and trade reform for poor nations.

He was speaking at a Christian Aid rally in the Scottishcapital Edinburgh after 200,000 people marched through the cityto put pressure on next week's summit of the Group of Eight(G8) rich nations.

"We are affirming today that we are of one moral universeand that to tackle the greatest evil of our times, ours mustnow become the greatest moral crusade of our times," Brown saidin a passionate speech at the Church of Scotland assembly hall.

Brown, an active member of the church which his fatherserved as a minister, is widely expected to take over from TonyBlair as Britain's prime minister in the next few years.

Both Brown and Blair have championed the cause of Africaand Brown has pushed other rich nations to cancel African debt.

But he said there could be no justice for the poor whilerich countries subsidized their agricultural products, givingpoor states no chance of competing with them.

"Let us set a date for the elimination during this decadeof wasteful export subsidies," he said.

Brown won a standing ovation at the lively rally, whichfeatured traditional drummers from Ghana.

But some campaigners have criticized the West for notwiping out the debts of more countries and for attachingeconomic policy conditions to debt write-offs.

A heckler was escorted from the hall by police after tryingto interrupt Brown's speech.

Brown praised the Make Poverty History coalition ofcharities including Christian Aid which organized Saturday'smarch and inspired the Live 8 concerts around the world.

But he cautioned that tackling poverty that kills 30,000children a day would not end with decisions taken at the G8summit, chaired by Blair from July 6-8 at the Gleneaglescountryside hotel about 65 km (40 miles) northwest ofEdinburgh.

"This is more than a week's work at the G8. It is alifetime's work across the world," he said.

He indicated the issue of global poverty had been starklyillustrated for him during a visit to Africa this year.

He spoke in particular of meeting a 12-year-old girl inTanzania whose parents had both died of AIDS and who was nowsuffering from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis herself.

"Her eyes betrayed an unreadable sadness," he said. "Herdesolation is burned into my soul." (Additional reporting bySumeet Desai in London)