Protesters bash G8 leaders for failing to provide promised aid to Africa

U.S. President George W. Bush labeled Zimbabwe's election a sham Monday as activists accused leaders of the Group of Eight economic powers of falling behind on delivering promised aid to Africa.

G-8 leaders kicked off their annual summit, where climate change and the global food crisis were high on the agenda, with a working lunch attended by leaders of seven African nations to discuss aid to the continent. But Zimbabwe ended up consuming much of their time together, Bush said.

Bush, who backs U.N. sanctions against Zimbabwe, urged the international community to come together on ways to punish President Robert Mugabe, who is accused of using violence to win votes and quash his political opposition in the June 27 runoff.

"You know I care deeply about the people of Zimbabwe," Bush said after the meeting with African leaders. "I'm extremely disappointed in the elections, which I labeled a 'sham' election."

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who is also head of the African Union, said African leaders share the concerns, but may disagree with Bush on the way forward. The African Union has not backed sanctions.

A U.N. Security Council resolution drafted by the U.S. and backed by Britain would require nations to freeze the financial assets of Mugabe and 11 of his officials, and to restrict their travel to within Zimbabwe.

"I made it very clear, that the election result is not legitimate," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after the meeting.

The G-8 leaders met with leaders from Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania and the chairman of the African Union Commission.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups accused the G-8 - particularly France, Canada, Japan and Italy - of falling behind on fulfilling aid commitments to Africa. The other members of the group are Britain, Germany, Russia and the U.S.

African aid was the centerpiece of the G-8 summit three years ago in Gleneagles, Scotland, where leaders pledged to increase foreign aid by US$50 billion a year by 2010 - with half of that going directly to Africa - and to cancel the debt of the most heavily indebted poor nations.

"If that money were on the ground, we estimate that 5 million lives a year would be saved," said Charles Abani, regional director for Oxfam in Nigeria. He noted that it could have been spent on health services, education that lowers vulnerability to AIDS, and other lifesaving steps.

Collectively, the G-8 has delivered just US$3 billion of the US$25 billion additional aid pledged to Africa in 2005, according to Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa, or DATA, an advocacy group founded by U2 singer Bono and music producer Bob Geldof.

Germany, the U.S. and Britain were following through on commitments, while progress from France, Italy, Japan and Canada was either unclear or weak, DATA said.

Japan said there has been no backtracking on commitments made by the G-8 to Africa.

"I don't understand the criticism," said Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama. "The G-8 leaders are very aware of the commitments they have made to African leaders."

On Sunday, Bush emphasized the urgency of providing aid for Africa, calling on wealthy nations to provide mosquito nets and other aid to prevent children from "needlessly dying from mosquito bites."

The Africa Progress Panel, chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said last month that wealthy countries are likely to fail in their promise to deliver billions more aid to Africa by 2010. It also said rising global food prices threatened to destroy years of economic progress in Africa and drive 100 million people into poverty.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he has received international support for his idea of creating an experts group to tackle the global food crisis, similar to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Sarkozy has also urged the G-8 to expand to take in growing powers China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, saying it is unwise to keep them on the sidelines.

Those countries will be holding their own meeting Tuesday in Sapporo, the nearest big city, and their leaders are to meet with the G-8 on Wednesday.

Talks are expected to shift Tuesday and Wednesday to climate change as leaders try to move forward U.N.-led talks aimed at forging a new global warming accord by the end of 2009. The negotiations have stalled because of disagreements over what targets to set for greenhouse gas reductions, and how much developing countries such as China and India should be required to participate.

It was unclear whether nations would be able to agree to a goal of cutting their emissions by 50 percent by 2050. A more ambitious goal of setting nearer-term targets for 2020 was considered well beyond reach.