G8 leaders set to end summit with Africa pledge

Updated: 2007-06-08 08:50

HEILIGENDAMM- Leaders of the world's major powers will turn their attention to Africa on Friday and are widely expected to announce a US$60 billion pledge to fight AIDS and other killer diseases.

The heads of six African nations will press the needs of the poorest continent when they join G8 leaders on the final day of their summit, which produced an agreement on Thursday to pursue "substantial" cuts in greenhouse gases to combat global warming.

"G8 leaders have just over 24 hours to restore faith in a promise that represents life or death for millions of people across the world," said Stop AIDS Campaign coordinator Steve Cockburn.

The G8 countries wrangled late into Thursday night about specifics on aid for Africa but were expected to broadly recommit themselves to pledges made at a 2005 summit in Scotland when they said they would double development funding by 2010.

Two sources in the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations said officials at the summit venue in the German Baltic resort of Heiligendamm were close to agreeing on a $60 billion pledge to combat AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

But campaigners for Africa said a $60 billion pledge would fall short of UN targets.

Two leading campaigners, rock stars Bono and Bob Geldof, put pressure on G8 summit host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and her fellow leaders from the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.

"The chancellor has asked us to trust her and we are tempted, but we cannot risk being let down by the G8 again," said Bono.

Officials were also tackling an impasse over Kosovo's future late on Thursday, with France pushing a plan to delay a UN vote on the majority ethnic Albanian province's independence in exchange for Russia agreeing not to veto the outcome.

Russia backs Serbia's insistence it should retain sovereignty over the province, which rebelled against Belgrade's rule in 1998-9. The West regards independence as inevitable and fears delay will stoke violence in the southern Serbian region.


Officials were also discussing Iran and were likely to confirm plans to back "further measures" -- in other words more UN sanctions -- against Tehran if it continues to reject UN demands to halt uranium enrichment in its nuclear programme.

The United States has accused Iran of having secret plans to build nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear programme is solely for power to benefit its economy.

On Thursday, G8 leaders agreed to pursue substantial but unspecified cuts in greenhouse gases and work with the United Nations to clinch a new deal to fight global warming by 2009.

The agreement binds the world's largest polluter, the United States, more closely into international efforts to curb the gases scientists say are causing dangerous changes to world weather patterns.

But it does not commit the G8 nations to the firm emissions reduction targets that Merkel had wanted.

U.S. President George W. Bush has refused to sign up to numerical targets before rising economic powers like China and India make similar pledges. Convincing them to join the UN process will be crucial to halting global warming.

Russian President Vladimir Putin turned the tables on Bush by suggesting the United States use a Russian-controlled radar instead of U.S. anti-missile hardware in central Europe.

At a meeting with Bush, Putin proposed the United States and Russia should jointly use a radar in Azerbaijan as part of an anti-missile shield that would protect all of Europe.

In his comments to reporters, Bush did not directly mention the radar plan which may have taken the White House by surprise.

"He made some interesting suggestions," said Bush.

Washington has said it wants to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic as defence against projectiles launched by what it calls "rogue" states like Iran.

Putin vowed last week to target Europe if Washington pressed ahead with its central European missile shield plan. Washington has accused Russia of being uncooperative but Putin's plan would seem to undermine that criticism, analysts said.

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