G8 summit draws to end: Blair won the African aid issue

The G8 summit in Gleneagles is to be remembered as the most tragic meeting of the world leaders. Started in a festive mood thanks to London victory in the bid for Olympics 2012, it was never expected to end with sadness and fear of terrible blasts in the center of London.

World leaders agreed Friday on an "alternative to the hatred" - aid packages for Africa and the Palestinian Authority and a pledge to address global climate change, reports the AP.

"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 as the three-day gathering wound up.

"It isn't all that everyone wanted but it is progress, real and 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 US$25 billion (Ђ21 billion) to US$50 billion (Ђ42.08 billion).

Aside from the massive increase in aid for the African continent, leaders signaled support for new deals on trade, canceled the debt of some of the world's poorest nations, pledged universal access to AIDS treatment, committed to a peacekeeping force in Africa and heard African leaders promise to move toward democracies that follow the rule of law, he said.

Blair also announced a US$3 billion aid deal for the Palestinian Authority over coming years - a pledge he said would allow "two states, Israel and Palestine, two peoples and two religions (to) live side by side in peace."

"All of this does not change the world tomorrow - it is a beginning, not an end," Blair said, with the other G8 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 hailed the G8 summit as a "great success."

The world leaders agreed to start a dialogue on November 1 with the major emerging economies on how to slow down and later reverse the rise in greenhouse gases which cause global warming, reports Reuters.

Environmental groups have criticized their accord as too vague to pose a serious challenge to climate change and accused the United States of watering it down.

The leaders pledged to end farm export aid but set no deadline. They also called for renewed efforts to conclude a new phase of world trade liberalisation by the end of next year.

The G8 appeared to avoid taking any concrete steps to fight global warming, such as setting targets or timetables for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Standing in front of the Gleneagles hotel and country club, Blair acknowledged past differences in the international community.

"We do not hide the disagreements of the past, but we have agreed a process with a positive plan of action that will initiate a new dialogue between the G8 countries and the emerging economies of the world, to slow down and then in time to reverse the rise in harmful greenhouse gas emissions," Blair said.

French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that the agreement on climate change was "important, even if it doesn't go as far as I would have wanted it to." But he called the compromise language a "visible, real evolution" in the American position.

France and others had been hoping to include an explicit reference in the declaration to the Kyoto Protocol and how to proceed when the accord expires in 2012. But reference to the accord was minimal. "Those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol welcome its entry into force and will work to make it a success," it said.

The leaders of the Group of Eight - the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia - had vowed on Thursday not to allow the terrorist attacks in London to derail their summit efforts.

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