World leaders faced pressure from the United States to scale back goals for relieving African poverty and combatting disease on the world's poorest continent. But British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday he planned to keep campaigning for his ambitious objectives with other world leaders.
GLENEAGLES, Scotland World leaders faced pressure from the United States to scale back goals for relieving African poverty and combatting disease on the world's poorest continent. But British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday he planned to keep campaigning for his ambitious objectives with other world leaders.
The heads of the Group of Eight nations began arriving Wednesday at this posh golf resort for three days of discussions. Blair, as the host, was first to arrive, coming from Singapore where he had engaged in a round of last-minute lobbying on London's successful bid to serve as host for the summer Olympics in 2012.
When asked about reports that Britain is preparing to scale back its demands on support for Africa and climate change in the face of U.S. opposition, Blair said he is "prepared to hold out for what is right."
Bush contends that his administration has already done a lot to boost support for Africa and worries that too much aid in a short period of time would end up being wasted.
Blair told reporters there was no point in "speculating on what the bones of the agreement may be because we have not got it yet."
Blair commented at a joint appearance with Irish rock star Bono and Bob Geldof, who organized the Live 8 concerts last weekend aimed at pressuring G-8 leaders to do more to fight poverty and disease in Africa.
"Three billion people are urging you to take it all the way," Geldof told Blair, referring to the number of people organizers have estimated either attended or watched the weekend concerts on television.
While the world leaders arrived at the resort, thousands of anti-globalization protesters took to the streets in the nearby village of Auchterarder. They were led by a bagpiper dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt and chanted "Power to the people."
Scottish police at first called off the march because they said public safety could not be guaranteed after a smaller band of 100 protesters smashed car windows, threw rocks and attempted to block one of the main roads leading to the resort. However, the police allowed the march to continue after organizers complained that their free speech rights were being denied.
Later in the day, riot police clashed with demonstrators at one of the security fences installed along the route to the resort. Dozens of protesters scaled the fence before being detained by police.
Leaders' aides, meanwhile, met behind closed doors on the two issues Blair has made the main focus of this year's meeting -- support for Africa, the globe's poorest continent, and increasing efforts to deal with the pollution that scientists believe is linked to planet warming.
Blair challenged G-8 countries -- which also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia -- to double aid to Africa from a current total of $25 billion to $50 billion by 2010. Blair also wants member nations to increase giving for all foreign aid to the equivalent of 0.7 percent of national incomes by 2015.
Bush, after initially resisting Blair's call, announced last Thursday that he would seek to double U.S. aid by 2010, to $8.6 billion from $4.3 billion in 2004. But Bush opposes the 0.7 percent target. Anti-poverty activists said Bush's goal of $8.6 billion fell about $6 billion short of what was needed from the United States to meet Blair's $50 billion target.
As a consequence, the summit's final communique was expected to drop any reference to a $50 billion goal in favor of talk more generally of a "doubling" of assistance, which would represent a disappointment to anti-poverty activists. Blair emphasized that the final communique was still being worked on.
Bono and Geldof, who both met with Blair, Bush, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, appealed for more public pressure to be exerted over the next two days. Bono predicted the G-8 countries would enhance their offers before the summit ends Friday, but he conceded that Blair's goal of doubling support to $50 billion had not yet been achieved.
Bono said Bush said he believed his administration already had made a substantial commitment by tripling U.S. aid for Africa since 2000. Bono said Bush indicated the United States was willing to make an offer on scaling back farm subsidies in such areas as cotton and sugar if the European Union matched those proposals with its own subsidy cuts. Bono said Schroeder indicated he was considering further German aid support for Africa.
Earlier Bush, who stopped in Denmark en route to Scotland, warned he would emphasize the need for African nations to commit to good governance to get increased support.
The differences were even starker on global warming. Blair wanted a plan to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But U.S. officials lobbied to prevent the inclusion in the G-8 communique of any specific reduction targets as called for in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The United States is the only G-8 country that has refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty, with Bush saying to do so would have "wrecked" the U.S. economy.
Sir Michael Jay, Blair's representative in the discussions, called the negotiations on global warming "pretty intense." He predicted the G-8 would reach an accord that recognized the problem and the need to combat it without mentioning specific targets.
Bush said in Denmark that "the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem."
However, he made plain that mandatory targets are off the table.
Source: Associated Press