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Blair lauds G8 doubling of aid to Africa

Prime minister concedes limited progress on global warming

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair, backed by G8 and African leaders, speaks at the close of the summit.

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GLENEAGLES, Scotland (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced "very substantial progress" in addressing African poverty at the G8 summit on Friday, but acknowledged only limited advancement on the other top issue on the agenda, global climate change.

Blair praised the leaders of the major industrial nations for their commitment to double African aid to $50 billion by 2010. But he acknowledged that "some of us would like to have gone further" and set a date to end export subsidies, a key factor in the debt overwhelming many African economies.

Blair said that in politics "you don't achieve everything you want to achieve," but that the aid increase was "a huge advance on anything that's been there before."

He also announced a pledge of $3 billion to the Palestinian Authority.

"Despite obviously being overshadowed by the terrorism that occurred yesterday in London, I think and hope we did demonstrate that there is a better and more hopeful way of doing politics in the future," he said of the summit. (Full story)

African poverty was the most prominent issue heading into the meeting of the leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. Over the weekend a series of "Live 8" concerts worldwide and a campaign called "Make Poverty History" sought to draw public attention to the continent's struggle. (Full story)

Blair said that the G8's moves would not eliminate poverty by themselves, but were still important steps.

"We do show how it can be done, and we do signify the political will to do it," Blair said.

The group's communique laid out its funding pledge as well as commitments to building a peacekeeping force and battling AIDS and malaria.

Blair said he took the unusual step of having the other G8 leaders sign the communique to send the message that "this is what we declare. We are going to be held to this. We're bound by it, we're committed to it, and judge us by it."

Prominent leaders of the effort to drop the African debt praised the G8. Activist and rock star Bono said the group's contribution to fighting malaria alone, if it is seen through, could save 600,000 Africans.

Still, Kumi Naidoo, head of Global Call for Action Against Poverty, said waiting until 2010 to double aid "would be like waiting five years to respond to the tsunami."

Blair, at a news conference, called on African governments to build democracies.

"The only people that will change Africa ultimately are Africans," he said. "In the end, it is only vibrant African leadership capable of giving good governance to its people that can make the ultimate difference, that will rout out corruption, that will entrench democracy and human rights, and that will make sure that people respect the rule of law."

Climate change was a divisive issue among the leaders. The United States is the only nation of the eight that has not ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which President Bush said would damage the U.S. economy.

"We were never going to be able at this G8 to resolve the disagreement over Kyoto, nor to renegotiate a set of targets for countries in place of the Kyoto Protocol," said Blair.

But President Bush has said in recent days that he believes humans contribute to global warming -- a stance environmental activists have long called on his administration to take.

Blair said the discussions at the G8 suggested there may be some sort of consensus down the road. He said the group reached "a firm consensus that this problem needs to be tackled (and) has to be tackled now." It also lays the groundwork for a future dialogue on the issue, beginning with a meeting in Britain on November 1.

Without the United States entering into the consensus, he said, "We will never ensure that the huge emerging economies -- particularly those of China and India, who are going to consume more energy than any other part of the world -- we will never ensure that they are part of a dialogue."

The funding commitment to the Palestinian Authority is aimed at helping build the infrastructure of a Palestinian state as Israel begins its disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, Blair said.

It was not immediately clear how much each nation would contribute toward the $3 billion total or how soon it would be spent. Blair said the funds would be given "in the coming years."

He acknowledged that some international pledges of support are never fulfilled. But he said there is a lot of international focus on Africa, "and people will hold us to those commitments. They should hold us to those commitments.

"And the partnership forum between the African countries and the G8 countries will ensure that that's so."

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