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Shaken G-8 issues Africa, climate pledges

World leaders wrapping up an economic summit shaken by terrorism agreed Friday to aid packages for Africa and Palestinians but failed to agree on specific action to curb global warming, instead pledging a new round of talks in November.
British Prime Minister Blair speaks before G8 leaders at Gleneagles
Prime Minister Tony Blair closes the Group of Eight summit Friday with other world leaders behind him.Eriko Sugita / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

World leaders wrapping up an economic summit shaken by terrorism agreed Friday to aid packages for Africa and Palestinians but failed to agree on stronger action to curb global warming, instead pledging a new round of talks in November.

In a separate joint statement on terrorism, the leaders pledged to new joint efforts to combat terrorism in light of the London bombings. Among those commitments was cooperating in ways to improve the safety of rail and subway travel.

“We speak today in the shadow of terrorism, but it will not obscure what we came here to achieve,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the summit host, said to close the Group of Eight gathering. “It isn’t all that everyone wanted but it is progress, real, achievable progress.”

With a last-minute pledge from Japan, Blair won a key victory from world leaders, announcing that aid to Africa would rise from the current $25 billion to $50 billion. Japan pledged to increase overseas aid by $10 billion over the next five years.

Blair ticked off a list of accomplishments from a meeting that nonetheless produced less than he had hoped for.

Aside from the massive increase in aid for the African continent, leaders signaled support for new deals on trade, canceling the debt of some of the world’s poorest nations, universal access to AIDS treatment, and a strong peacekeeping force in Africa.

'A beginning, not an end'
“All of this does not change the world tomorrow — it is a beginning, not an end,” Blair said, with President Bush and the other G-8 leaders and the leaders of five African nations standing behind him. “And none of it today will match the same ghastly impact as the cruelty of terror. But it has a pride and a hope and humanity at its heart that can lift the shadow of terrorism and light the way to a better future.”

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo thanked the G-8 leaders for focusing on Africa and for “their resolve not to be diverted by these terrorist acts.”

Anti-poverty groups praised the pledge to double aid for Africa but said the increases should be made more quickly, given the number of Africans dying of poverty and disease.

“The G-8’s aid increase could save the lives of 5 million children by 2010 — but 50 million children’s lives will still be lost because the G-8 didn’t go as far as they should have done,” said Jo Leadbeater, head of policy for British-based Oxfam International.

Irish rock star Bono, who worked to mount the global Live 8 concerts last weekend to pressure the G-8 leaders, called the announcement “extremely meaningful” and said “a mountain has been climbed.”

Blair said the Palestinian aid package would total up to $3 billion “in the years to come.” However, the summit communique said the support would be up to $3 billion per year over the coming three years for a total of up to $9 billion. Faryar Shirzad, Bush’s representative to the G-8, said the $9 billion figure was correct and a British official said the communique had the best explanation of the Palestinian aid.

Blair, however, lost in his push to get all summit countries to commit to boosting foreign aid to an amount equal to 0.7 percent of national income by 2015. Instead, a summit document said the European Union had agreed to that support but did not mention the United States.

Bush had refused to be bound by the 0.7 percent target. The United States is currently giving 0.16 percent of national income, the smallest percentage of any of the G-8 countries.

The leaders, struggling to keep to their mission in the aftermath of deadly bombings that rocked London’s rush hour on Thursday, shortened the final day of their summit to allow Blair to rush back to lead a government panel dealing with the blasts.

Further climate talks
The leaders failed to overcome stiff resistance from Bush to launching a more aggressive attack on global warming.

"If it is impossible to bring America into the consensus on climate change we will never ensure the huge emerging economies like China and India ... are part of the dialogue," Blair said Friday. Blair added that Russia has agreed to make climate change a major priority when it takes over the G-8 presidency next year.

Describing the agreement on climate change, Blair said merely that the plan of action “will initiate a new dialogue” between the summit countries and leaders from developing nations who also met with them.

The G-8 leaders agreed to start a new dialogue to “slow down and then in time to reverse the rise in harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” Blair said, adding that those talks would happen in Britain on Nov. 1.

The United States, the only G-8 country that has not ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming, was successful in rejecting Blair’s call for setting specific targets and a timetable for reducing greenhouse emissions.

The communique acknowledged the split between the United States and the other countries in a section that said “those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, welcome its entry into force and will work to make it a success.” That was the document’s only mention of the treaty put into effect last February.

Bush contends the Kyoto accord’s curbs on greenhouse emissions would wreck the U.S. economy.

The document did also state that “while uncertainty remains in our understanding of climate science, we know enough to act now.” French President Jacques Chirac called that compromise language a “visible, real evolution” in the American position.

Blair blasts 'politics of terror'
The terrorism document followed the attacks in London on Thursday.

Within hours of the bombings, Bush and the other leaders issued a special joint statement that condemned “these barbaric acts.”

“We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation, but on all nations and on civilized people everywhere,” the leaders said.

In his closing statement Friday, Blair said: “There is no hope in terrorism, nor any future in it worth living. And it is hope that is the alternative to this hatred, so we offer today this contrast with the politics of terror.”

Despite the leaders’ expressions of anti-terror solidarity, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hinted Western countries were being hypocritical because they do not call Chechen rebels international terrorists.

Russian has objected vehemently to Britain’s granting asylum to a top Chechen rebel representative, Akhmed Zakayev, and the United States giving refuge to another, Ilyas Akahmatov.

“It is highly dangerous and misleading to think that those who support and encourage terrorism can be called political figures,” Lavrov said.