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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bush, Blair for Africa Aid, No Backing for UK Plan

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will pledge hundreds of millions of dollars on Tuesday in aid to Africa but Bush will stop short of backing Blair's more ambitious plan to lift the region out of poverty.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two leaders would announce a joint British-U.S. initiative aimed at feeding the hungry in Ethiopia, Eritrea and other African nations threatened by famine.

The U.S. contribution would include $674 million -- enough to feed 14 million people -- and a significant commitment will also be made by the British, the official said.

The initiative was in response to a U.N. appeal for $4 billion this year to address Africa's emergency needs. Washington has already provided nearly $1.4 billion this fiscal year.

But no breakthrough was seen on Blair's request that Bush support Britain's "International Finance Facility" which would double aid for poor countries by issuing bonds against the future aid budgets of rich nations.

That plan would raise $25 billion to $50 billion a year by selling bonds on global capital markets.

Bush made clear his position last week, saying the proposal "doesn't fit our budgetary process." White House officials said that position remained the same ahead of the Blair meeting.

British government sources are floating the idea of pressing ahead with the finance facility without U.S. involvement.

Blair has staked his reputation on helping Africa during Britain's presidency of the G8 group of rich nations.

He has already had talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and will visit the leaders of France, Germany and Russia in the run-up to next month's G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, of which he is host.

Wired News

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