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Blair presses for US support on Africa aid

No change seen by president on emissions

GLENEAGLES, Scotland -- Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain pressed his effort to gain President Bush's support for a massive aid package for Africa and a plan to address global warming as leaders of the world's big industrialized nations began a three-day summit yesterday.

Inside the resort overlooking rolling glens where police and anti-globalization protesters clashed along a steel security fence, Bush and his staff were busy trying to scale back the ambitious goals of the Group of Eight meeting.

In remarks in Denmark yesterday before he arrived at the summit, Bush also made it clear that the United States was not likely to budge on a rejection of set quotas for lowering emissions of greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels.

Despite objections from Washington, Blair said he would not flinch in his objectives to double aid to Africa -- to $50 billion by 2010 -- and to hammer out a new agreement to reduce emissions. The world leaders are gathering for what promises to be intense talks aimed at producing a communique tomorrow that would spell out the specifics on Africa.

The summit officially opened last night with a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II before the start of formal talks.

The summit seems likely to pit Blair, who is seen as pushing on aid for Africa in part to redeem his image after his extremely unpopular support for the war in Iraq, against Bush, who has cultivated a close relationship with Blair and often painted his government as America's most trusted ally. Asked about reports that Britain is preparing to scale back its demands on support for Africa and climate change in the face of US opposition, Blair said he is ''prepared to hold out for what is right."

The Bush administration contends it already has done a lot to boost support for Africa and worries that too much aid in a short period of time would end up being wasted.

Blair told reporters there was no point in ''speculating on what the bones of the agreement may be because we have not got it yet."

A document outlining a way forward on addressing global warming could come as soon as today. Bush has said he supports an initiative that would focus on creating incentives and funding technology that would create ways to reduce emissions rather than a system of set limits such as those established in the 1997 Kyoto Accords. The United States is the only G-8 country that has refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty, with Bush saying that to do so would have ''wrecked" the US economy.

Aid to Africa remains the crucial battleground at Gleneagles. With a constellation of rock 'n' roll and Hollywood stars aligning themselves here with tens of millions of supporters of a worldwide campaign to ''Make Poverty History," political activists and aid groups said they were confident that the summit presented a unique moment in history.

Bob Geldof, the Irish rocker and organizer of Saturday's Live 8 concerts held around the world, told Blair at a joint press conference, ''Three billion people are urging you to take it all the way.

''You come here with the largest mandate of any leader in the world," he said, referring to the nearly 3 billion people who organizers estimate either attended or watched the concerts on television, which were aimed at pressuring leaders from France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Britain, Russia, Italy, and the United States to do more to battle poverty and disease in Africa.

A later press conference yesterday brought together George Clooney, Bono, and Geldof with several African writers, musicians, actors, and heads of aid organizations. All encouraged the leaders to unite against what aid organizations say is the death of between 30,000 and 50,000 Africans a day due to poverty and treatable diseases.

Commenting on the hugely successful concerts which were capped with a concert in Edinburgh last night, Bono, the lead singer for the Irish rock band U2, said, ''Millions of people came out in positive ways."

Then, referring to the clashes on the perimeter of the Gleneagles summit and in a small village nearby, he added: ''The alternative you've also seen, and that is smashed cars and windows and vicious anger and rage. I'd like to think our way is better. We'll find out in a couple of days."

Knowledgeable insiders say the key to the summit will be discussions about actual dollar figures on increased aid and deciphering the figures from the ''spin" of the donor countries.

''The thing to watch for at Gleneagles is wordplay," said Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist and special adviser to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and one of the world's leading experts on the politics of aid. ''We've invested overtime in spin and resisted investing modestly in solutions."

For example, Sachs said by telephone from London, Bush pledged last Thursday that the United States would double its annual aid to Africa to $8.6 billion by 2010. But the US aid to Africa is significantly lower on a per capita basis compared to the other G-8 countries.

Under the formula proposed by Blair at the summit, the United States would have to come up with a more than three-fold increase in aid to Africa -- or about $14 billion -- for the G-8 to reach its goal of a total doubling in aid from the current level of $25 billion to $50 billion a year by 2010.

To put the actual dollar figures for aid in perspective, Sachs pointed out that the total amount of US aid given to Africa since 1960 is estimated in inflation adjusted dollars at $50 billion.

''That is much less than the $80 billion the US will spend in Iraq this year. So you have to wonder about our priorities," he said.

But Sachs, whose new book is titled ''The End of Poverty," said that the Live 8 concerts and the Gleneagles summit have come together to provide an important opportunity. ''There is growing recognition that specific things can be done."

The violence began in the early morning near Gleneagles when thousands of demonstrators who had camped out overnight surged down onto the M-9 highway and succeeded in blocking traffic. Fierce clashes erupted, and 32 people were arrested for disturbing the peace.

Hundreds of demonstrators abandoned a planned demonstration route nearer the resort and took off across the Perthshire hills toward a steel fence that had been erected to secure the site. Amid drizzle, the protesters were led by the skirl of a bagpiper as they charged the fence.

Some threw rocks and wooden stakes at police, who responded by charging the demonstrators in the field and bringing in attack dogs. Police reinforcements in riot gear dropped from Chinook helicopters. But the battle subsided within two hours, and police regrouped and prepared for more protests expected today.

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