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Blair: U.S. must court allies

Does the world economic forum in Davos help set the global agenda for change?
CNNI's programming from Davos includes an hour-long live special debate on the future of democracy in the Middle East, "CNN Connects: Freedom to Choose." With guests including Amre Moussa and Shimon Peres. 2000 GMT Friday January 28, replaying at 1100 and 1900 GMT Saturday January 29.

Two live editions of "World Business Today" from Davos air at 1930 and 2030 GMT Thursday January 27.
World Economic Forum

DAVOS, Switzerland -- The United States must work more closely with other countries on their priorities, such as global warming, if it wants the rest of the world to support its agenda, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Blair has sought to win American backing for measures to tackle global warming, insisting that they do not have to lead to "drastic" cuts in living standards.

Addressing international political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, Blair insisted that an international consensus was emerging on climate change.

But at the same time he warned that governments could not be expected to push through changes that would seriously damage their economic prospects.

"If we put forward as a solution to climate change something that involves drastic cuts in growth or standards of living, it matters not how justified it is, it simply won't be agreed to," he said.

His speech appeared designed to win over the U.S. administration, which has refused to sign up to the Kyoto Treaty.

The treaty set tough international targets for reducing damaging greenhouse gas emissions.

However, observers said Blair's words were likely to alarm environmentalists who would see them as a watering down of his commitment to use Britain's presidency of the G8 group of industrialized nations to tackle climate change.

Blair used his speech to argue that the U.S. administration was now ready to engage with the international community on a range of issues after the bitter divisions over the Iraq war.

He said President George W. Bush's inauguration speech had shown the "consistent evolution in U.S. policy."

"America accepts that terrorism cannot be defeated by military might alone. The more people who live under democracy with human liberty intact the less inclined they or their states will be to indulge in terrorism," he said.

He said America realized it was in its "enlightened self-interest" to engage with the rest of the world.

"Freedom is good in itself but it is also the best guarantee that human beings will live in sympathy with each other," he said. "The hard head has led to the warm heart."

Earlier, French President Jacques Chirac warned that "silent tsunamis" of despair, such as unemployment, were plaguing the world, and called on those attending the World Economic Forum help others.

"The scale of the destruction is a reminder of the fragility of humankind in the face of nature," he said Wednesday, referring to the tsunamis that struck southern Asia, killing at least 157,000.

"This disaster should raise the alarm. Because our world suffers chronically from what has been strikingly called the 'silent tsunamis.'

"Famine. Infectious diseases that decimate the life force of entire continents. Violence and revolt. Regions given over to anarchy. Uncontrolled migratory movements. Rises in extremism, breeding grounds for terrorism."

Chirac canceled his trip to the annual gathering of global political and business leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos because of uncertain weather conditions and delivered his address by video-conference

Security was tight around the mountain town. Preparing for any terrorist threat, organizers told The Associated Press that air force planes were ready to shoot down any unauthorized aircraft that stray too close to the 2,250 participants.

Police set up checkpoints on main roads and uniformed officers dotted the streets around the main site of the gathering, AP reported.

Delegates from 96 countries are in Davos for the annual event in which business leaders -- along with more than 20 heads of state or government, 70 cabinet ministers, 50 heads of nongovernmental organizations, as well as cultural, religious and union leaders -- are to discuss global challenges.

According to the forum's Web site, their goal is to "take responsibility for tough choices," which is the theme of the event.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will speak Friday, and Jose Manuel Barroso -- the new president of the European Commission -- will get his first chance to address the world's business leaders Saturday, organizers said.

Newly inaugurated Ukraine President Viktor Yuschenko is scheduled to speak on Friday.

The annual forum has grown in importance in the 1990s as more than just a chance to talk business, compare notes and devise corporate strategy.

Increasingly the high level of participants and wide TV coverage has led to environmental and humanitarian issues being raised.

Celebrities are booked to attend with Bono, Angelina Jolie, Richard Gere attempting to focus minds on how the world's eight richest countries, the Group of Eight industrial countries, can do more to reduce poverty and fight AIDS.

Launching the event at a news conference at the World Economic Forum's headquarters in Geneva, founder and Executive Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab said 2005 was a crucial time for the world and its leaders.

The forum has been a favorite of top U.S. administration officials in recent years, including Vice President Dick Cheney and former President Bill Clinton, but this year's event will be dominated by top European leaders as key U.S. officials stay away because of personnel changes in the Bush administration, organizers said.

Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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