July 5, 2005

Africa urges G8 to act on UK-backed aid plan

By Manoah Esipisu

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - African Union (AU) heads of stateurged a summit of rich nations to act rapidly to end poverty onthe continent, saying they should implement all the proposalsof a British-backed report on aid, trade and debt.

"The Assembly (of AU leaders) fully supports therecommendations contained in the Commission for Africa report,"read a resolution issued to reporters at the pan-continentalorganization's half-yearly gathering of leaders.

The report, commissioned by British Prime Minister TonyBlair for consideration by Group of Eight (G8) leaders meetingin Scotland on Wednesday and Thursday, calls for freer trade, abig rise in aid and debt cancellation.

"The Assembly (of AU leaders) ... strongly urges the G8Summit meeting ... to fully embrace the comprehensiverecommendations of the Commission for Africa and actexpeditiously on them," the resolution said.

"The Assembly commends the prime minister of the UK, TonyBlair, and his government for pushing robust global action insupport of Africa's efforts toward growth, poverty reductionand prosperity."

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, a wealthy force among poorAfrican states, had told the leaders on Monday that thesolution to Africa's woes was the creation of onepan-continental country, not Western aid delivered subjected toconditions.

But Britain has said any move to increase aid to Africa issimply the right thing to do, and that trade is the key tounlocking Afica's development.

"It's not about charity, it's about justice," saidBritain's international development secretary, Hilary Benn, whoattended the African meeting.

"But in the end it's going to be economic development,opening up the world trading system, enabling Africa to earnand trade its way out of poverty that's really going to makethe difference, and for that to happen you also need peace andstability, good governance."

More than 40 percent of Africans live on less than $1 aday, 200 million Africans are threatened by serious foodshortages and AIDS kills more than 2 million Africans a year.

In the African gathering's other major piece of business,the leaders endorsed a plan to demand two permanent seats on areformed U.N. Security Council, although they dodged thequestion of how their representatives would be selected.

Diplomats said the gathering was running out of time totackle the subject and leaders did not want to spark acrimonyamong top contenders Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.

"We have agreed the principle but have not gone into theselection process," South African Foreign Minister NkosazanaDlamini-Zuma told reporters. "It will be negotiated."