Video: Iraq memo overshadows Africa

updated 6/7/2005 9:50:26 PM ET 2005-06-08T01:50:26

President Bush on Tuesday pledged to work with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to forgive the debt of developing African nations and defended the U.S. stance on global warming that is at odds with many of America’s allies.

“In terms of climate change, I’ve always said it’s a serious long-term issue that needs to be dealt with,” Bush said. But he fell far short of Blair’s call for specific action, saying, “We want to know more about it.”

Bush has long opposed the 1997 Kyoto treaty ratified by 140 nations but not the United States.

Standing alongside Blair, Bush also for the first time addressed a 2002 memo to the prime minister from a top British intelligence official suggesting that the United States had bent intelligence to justify a decision to invade Iraq and had sought British cooperation.

“There’s nothing farther from the truth,” Bush said. “Both of us didn’t want to use our military. It was our last option.”

Said Blair: “The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all.”

Reform a requirement for debt relief
On African debt, Bush said only those nations “on a path to reform” should qualify for debt relief. “Nobody wants to give money to a country that’s corrupt, where leaders take money and put it in their pocket,” he said.

The leaders hinted at the outlines of the deal-in-progress.

Bush wants debt relief targeted to countries that commit to open governing and free markets. Blair wants to ensure that international organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are given back any debt they forgive.

The British prime minister is expected to push for both the debt-relief plan and a stepped-up effort to fight global warming when he hosts the Group of Eight summit of industrial nations in Scotland next month.

Immediate famine relief
In addition to agreeing to work to forgive African debt, Bush promised to provide $674 million for more immediate African famine relief.

The prime minister’s staunch support for Bush on the Iraq war has prompted criticism of him as lacking influence and has driven down his standing among some Britons. Tuesday’s talks were the first since Blair narrowly won re-election in voting that also saw his Labour Party sustain heavy losses.

Blair’s support has earned him little reward from the Bush administration. Differences over Mideast peace strategy, Guantanamo Bay detentions and other issues have abounded.

Agreeing to disagree
The Bush administration disagrees with Blair’s plan for how to finance debt relief. Blair has proposed raising some of the money by selling bonds on the world’s capital markets — an approach Bush dismissed out of hand last week. Bush also opposes a British proposal that the IMF sell some of its massive gold reserves to fund increased aid.

The leaders demonstrated that their biggest differences were over global warming.

Blair has said that “clear and immediate action” to address rising temperatures is one of the world’s most pressing priorities. But the Bush administration opposes government-mandated action, arguing there still are questions about global warming and possible causes.

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