June 8, 2007 / 12:43 AM / 13 years ago

G8 trumpets Africa aid deal as summit ends

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany (Reuters) - World powers on Friday pledged $60 billion to fight AIDS and other diseases ravaging Africa but development campaigners complained the Group of Eight had offered little fresh cash for the poor.

President Bush laughs with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (2ndR) during a group photo at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany June 8, 2007. At far left is Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and at far right is British Prime Minister Tony Blair. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hosting G8 leaders and heads of five African states, trumpeted the agreement as a showpiece achievement of the three-day summit, along with Thursday’s deal to push for greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

“We are conscious of our obligations and want to fulfill the promises we made. And we will do that,” said Merkel. “We also gave a push to the fight against AIDS,” she told reporters.

Despite deals on aid and climate, cracks showed in the united front leaders tried to present, with tension between an emboldened Russia and an alarmed West never far from the surface.

Russian President Vladimir Putin refused French entreaties to accept the independence of Kosovo. He told President George W. Bush to scrap plans to put anti-missile equipment in central Europe and use Russian facilities instead.

Putin, who is due to step down next year, ended the summit by warning foreigners not to meddle in Russia’s elections after hearing concern from G8 leaders about the erosion of freedoms.

British leader Tony Blair, who steps down this month, said he did not expect tension with Russia to diminish soon. London wants the suspected murderer of poisoned ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko extradited. Putin has called the request foolish.

FALLING SHORT

G8 leaders said they would provide at least $60 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, global diseases that have devastated African countries and their economies.

But the declaration set no specific timetable, saying the money would flow “over the coming years”. Neither did it break down individual countries’ contributions or spell out how much of the sum had been previously promised.

“I am exasperated,” Irish rock star and anti-poverty campaigner Bono told Reuters. “I think it is deliberately the language of obfuscation. It is deliberately misleading.”

Even G8 member Canada, attacked by campaigners for blocking a more ambitious deal, was critical, with a senior official saying the pledge was “an aspirational statement.”

“The projection is based on an extrapolation into the future of existing funding,” the official added.

President George W. Bush last week announced plans to double Washington’s financial commitment to the anti-AIDS fight to $30 billion over five years, which was included in the G8’s headline figure of $60 billion.

TEPID REACTION

Leaders also reiterated an overall pledge made at the Gleneagles G8 summit in 2005 to raise annual aid levels by $50 billion by 2010, $25 billion of which is for Africa.

Nahmla Mniki of African Monitor, a body set up to track the Gleneagles goals, said promises had been broken.

“We see promises, we see pledges, but these are general statements that are not legally binding and cannot be traced down to actual disbursements,” said Mniki.

Aid agency Oxfam said the G8 will fall far short of its Gleneagles pledges. “We must not be distracted by big numbers. What the $60 billion headline means at best is just $3 billion extra in aid by 2010,” said an Oxfam policy adviser.

“It cannot be the aim of every G8 summit to set new financial goals, no one was asking us for that. This is about implementation and what people get from the money,” said Merkel who plans an official visit to Africa in October.

KOSOVO DEADLOCK

Russia rejected a French plan to delay a U.N. vote on Kosovo’s independence in exchange for recognizing that Belgrade must give up the Albanian-dominated province eventually.

Slideshow (9 Images)

Russia backs Belgrade’s refusal to abandon sovereignty and has threatened to veto a Security Council vote. The West thinks Kosovo’s independence is inevitable and says delays may stoke violence.

Leaders also threatened “further measures” — or more U.N. sanctions — against Iran if it continues to reject U.N. demands to halt uranium enrichment in its nuclear program.

Additional reporting by Katherine Baldwin, David Ljunggren, Crispian Balmer, Thomas Krumenacker and Knut Engelmann

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