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Leaders pledge to double aid to Africa

GLENEAGLES, Scotland -- In a show of resolve following the London terrorist attacks, leaders of the world's big industrialized countries pledged yesterday to double aid to Africa and to work together to address global warming.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who hosted the Group of Eight summit but ended up shuttling between the gathering of world leaders at this Scottish golf resort and London to deal with Thursday's bombings, announced that the nations had committed to double the annual amount of African aid to $50 billion by the year 2010.

In the summit's final communique, the leaders also agreed to cancel $40 billion of debt owed to international lending agencies by 18 of the poorest countries in Africa and supported a $3 billion aid package for the Palestinian Authority over each of the next three years.

The terrorist attacks seemed to galvanize the will of the leaders and focus their efforts by dramatically illustrating that what unites them in the fight against terrorism and the struggle to end poverty in Africa is more important than the issues that divide them. Blair said the communique was the ''definitive expression of our collective will to act in the face of death."

''It has a pride and a hope and a humanity that can lift the shadow of terrorism," he said.

Then, with the other leaders at the signing ceremony by his side, Blair turned to reporters and said, ''Hold us to it."

President Bush left Gleneagles just before Blair's closing news conference without commenting publicly on the summit agreements. He arrived in Washington yesterday afternoon and went directly to the British Embassy to sign a condolence book on behalf of the American people.

The G-8 summit came on the heels of the Live 8 concerts on stages around the world that sought to pressure the leaders of the wealthiest nations to do more for Africa and to highlight the ''Make Poverty History" campaign. Several million attended the shows, and organizers estimated that 3 billion people viewed them on satellite television.

Bono, lead singer of the Irish rock band U2 and one of the organizers of the event, said at a news conference at Gleneagles, where he met with Blair and Bush: ''The world spoke, and the politicians listened. Now if the world keeps an eye out, they will keep their promises."

As significant as the agreement on aid to Africa was, many said the communique fell short of expectations among aid organizations and environmental groups.

Barbara Stocking, director of the British-based charity Oxfam, said of the G-8 final pledge on aid to Africa, ''It is significant, but it is not going to end poverty. If you are a starving child in Africa, 2010 is a long time to wait," she said.

The United States did not make any additional pledges on African aid. Bush announced last week that he would seek to double US assistance to $8.6 billion in 2010.

At the news conference, Blair acknowledged that the final agreement ''isn't all everyone wanted, but it is progress."

Aid organizations and environmental groups focused their criticism of the G-8 agreement on its failure to set specific limits on emissions that lead to global warming and the postponement of a specific timetable for ending trade barriers erected by rich nations to poor countries' farm exports. Economists say the barriers harm economies of the developing world.

Blair said an agreement on standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions had always been unlikely because of staunch US opposition to such quotas. But he said the communique on climate change, which called for a new round of talks that include such developing countries as China and India, provided a way forward for addressing the problem and crucially included US acceptance that global warming is caused, in part, by human activity.

The United States did not budge on its position that it would not accept any agreement such as the 1997 Kyoto Accords, saying that set limits would hurt the American economy by driving up energy costs.

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