Ireland will meet major U N development goals by 2012

Ireland's prime minister promised Wednesday that his country will meet major United Nations development goals by 2012, increasing its annual overseas development aid to over Ђ1.5 billion (US$1.84 billion) by that year.

Speaking on the opening day of a summit marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Ireland is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals - a set of targets for reducing worldwide poverty and disease - three years before the original target deadline of 2015.

Ireland's first step toward meeting the goals is increasing annual development aid spending to 0.5 percent of the country's gross national income by 2007, Ahern said. By 2012, that figure will increase to meet the 0.7 percent goal established by the United Nations, he said, bringing total annual spending to three times the current level.

Ahern also highlighted several new initiatives linked to Ireland's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, including a Ђ50 million (US$40.7 million) increase in spending on HIV/AIDS in 2006 and an expanded partnership with Irish industry to develop the private sector in Ireland's partner countries in Africa.

Ireland is one of the few countries to offer "untied aid," he added, meaning it doesn't require aid money to be used to purchase goods and services solely from Ireland. He noted that the country's new plan was ambitious and that "seven years is a very short time from a financial perspective," but he called the 2007 goal of 0.5 percent gross national income "binding."

The 2012 goal is based on "current growth projections," he said, but he expressed optimism that they would be met on schedule, AP reports.

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