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Blair to tackle African poverty

Blair is beginning a tour of some west African states
Blair is beginning a tour of some west African states  

LONDON, England -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to use his African visit to promote plans to tackle poverty on the continent.

Blair, who landed in Nigeria late Wednesday for the start of a four-state tour, is expected to say he can press Africa's case among the economic powerhouses of the G8.

His aides say the speech in Nigeria will be the most important he has made about his vision for Africa.

He is forecast to say how rich nations can support a new African initiative to end poverty on the continent, British officials said.

Nigerians in Lagos are recovering from the latest incident of ethnic violence. CNN's Jeff Koinange reports (February 6)

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CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said Blair had both a moral and a practical reason for following such a policy.

Oakley added: "Although he is driven by a moral impulse, he also sees a practical end.

"Afghanistan has shown that if you leave countries to fester it can breed terrorism."

Blair will visit the west African states of Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal as well as Nigeria during his stay.

Nigeria is only just looking to restore stability and order in its commercial capital, Lagos, following four days of ethnic conflict during which about 100 people were hacked or burnt to death and thousands of residents forced to flee in terror.

British officials said Blair would meet President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday and then make his most important statement on Africa in an address to Nigeria's parliament.

"This will be the first real coherent speech on Africa from the prime minister," one British source was reported by Reuters as saying.

"It will be a major policy statement. He has been keen to get a decent platform for this.

"What he wants to try and get at on this trip more than anything else is how the New African Initiative is going to develop and how he can deploy that argument within the G8 (group of leading nations)."

Blair had earlier said the international community had "the best chance in a generation" to relieve poverty in Africa.

He told the British newspaper, The Times, that the rich world had "a duty to act," adding that helping Africa would be a key foreign affairs goal of his second term.


• Blair: 'Duty to act' for Africa
January 26, 2002
• U2 star Bono: 'Drop the Debt'
January 2, 2002
• UK troops ready for Afghan role
November 14, 2001
• Blair: 'Never forget September 11'
October 30, 2001

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