June 25, 2006

Blair enlists Annan and Geldof to chase G8 aid

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair has
enlisted rock star Bob Geldof and U.N. Secretary General Kofi
Annan to help keep track of how wealthy countries live up to
their aid commitments to Africa.

Keeping track of pledges by countries known as the Group of
Eight is a "full-time job" and while some pledges are on track,
more needs to be done, Blair will say in a speech on Monday in

Blair is setting up an independent Africa Panel, to be
chaired by Annan, to evaluate progress on promises made by the
G8 at a summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, last July.

G8 leaders promised an extra $50 billion a year in total
aid for all developing countries by 2010, including an expected
$25 billion for Africa.

Blair also enlisted Geldof, organizer of a series of Live 8
concerts last year, and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as
members of the panel, expected to be set up within weeks.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has agreed to help fund the
panel and secretariat, according to excerpts of Blair's speech.

"We need to deliver the comprehensive package agreed at
Gleneagles," he will say. "Ensuring that happens is a full-time

The panel will produce an annual report for the G8 and the
United Nations.

Plans to cancel 100 percent of the debt of many poor states
are on track and have allowed Zambia to provide free health
care for people living in rural areas, Blair will say.