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Europe

G8 Boosts Aid But Disappoints Activists

British Prime Minister Blair wrapped up a Group of Eight summit Friday that he described as a bold challenge to terrorist thuggery, but aid activists and environmentalists said the results fell short of what was needed.

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G8 leaders pledged to increase aid to Africa by $50 billion

Speaking a day after bombings left London reeling in bloody chaos, Blair announced agreement on a package of aid for Africa and measures to confront global warming that he said stood in stark contrast to the despair wrought by terrorism.

"We stand today in the shadow of terrorism. But it will not obscure what we came here to achieve," he declared. "The purpose of terrorism is not only to kill and maim the innocent. It is to put despair and anger and hatred in people's hearts. It is by its savagery designed to cover all conventional politics in darkness ... "There is no hope in terrorism, nor any future in it that is worth living. So we are offering today this contrast to the politics of terror."

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States endorsed measures they said would boost annual development aid to poor countries in Africa and elsewhere by $50 billion (42 billion euros) by 2010. They also agreed to cut trade-distorting farm subsidies -- albeit by an unspecified date -- and to provide aid worth $3 billion to the Palestinian Authority. Blair said a conference would be held in Britain on November 1 to discuss steps to reduce global warming.

Far from enough

But in an initial reaction, non-governmental organizations were less than impressed.

The World Development Movement, Oxfam International and Action Aid all said the projected aid increase would bring development assistance to just under $130 billion in the next five years, short of the Millenium Development Goals of $180 billion.

Protest in Edinburgh

Demonstrators in Edinburgh

The UN goals, approved in 2000, call for the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day to be halved by 2015. Max Lawson of Oxfam said the G8 initiative here was "a step forward but it will come too late."

Action Aid said the announcement was more bad news than good as it was insufficient to meet the needs of poor countries.

"G8 leaders have promised 50 billion dollars more in aid by 2010. While aid increases are welcome, this is too little, and it's too late for the 50 million children who will die between now and 2010," it said in a statement. "If they are serious about making poverty history, they should announce 50 billion in aid now, not in five years time."

Schröder trifft Geldof und Bono auf G8-Gipfel

German Chancellor Schröder met with Bono (right) and Bob Geldof (left)

A gentler assessment came from pop star Bono, who with fellow singer Bob Geldof organized a global rock concert in nine countries last weekend that drew a million people to spur the G8 into action. "The world spoke and the politicians listened," he said. "Now, if the world keeps an eye out, they will keep their promises."

Environmental challenge

On the environment, the G8 characterized global warming as a "serious and long-term challenge" and said it was in part caused by "the increased need and use of energy from fossil fuels, and other human activities."

Along with an action plan to combat global warming, the documents marked the G8's strongest acknowledgement so far of the cause and scale of global warming, a phenomenon that has shifted from the wings to the centre of the world's political stage in less than a quarter-century.

But they also fell miles short of the demands from scientists and green groups who had demanded a deadline and a target for cuts in the fossil-fuel gases that are warming Earth's atmosphere and disrupting its climate system.

"Thanks to the Bush administration, the world's biggest polluters have given little hope to those already suffering from climate change, especially those in Africa who will be hit hardest," said WWF's Jennifer Morgan. "Technology is important but without real targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it is simply not enough."

Demonstration in Gleneagles

Protesters were dragged by police from the motorway near Gleneagles on Wednesday

The three-day summit sparked violent protests Wednesday by hundreds of anti-capitalist activists, some of whom tried unsuccessfully to breach a security fence surrounding the summit venue -- a posh and secluded golf resort in the Scottish countryside.

That hurdle overcome, Blair on Thursday greeted his colleagues on a splendid early summer morning.

London bombs cast shadow

But the mood quickly darkened on reports of a coordinated terror attack on London's transport system, prompting the prime minister to rush back to the capital, leaving his counterparts to carry on with the talks.

He returned eight hours later.

According to German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Gleneagles had by then become "another summit" with "a different atmosphere."

A high-ranking European official added: "The summit has been totally overshadowed by the drama in London. All the debates were sidelined."



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