Blair Wants More For Famine Relief

U.S. President George W. Bush, right, meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. AP

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, lobbying world leaders on his plans to tackle global warming and lift Africa out of poverty, sees President Bush's promise to provide $674 million for famine relief a small step.

Bush aides say the United States wants to ensure that Blair's hosting of this year's economic summit of the world's seven richest industrialized nations and Russia is deemed a success. But Blair has made global warming and dramatically stepped-up aid to Africa the main topics of the July gathering, and Bush opposes most of what the British leader wants to do - or how he wants to do it.

Both sides tried to minimize differences Tuesday as Bush and Blair prepared to confer in the Oval Office and over dinner. Their talks also were expected to touch on Iraq's halting progress toward stability and efforts to turn Iran away from nuclear weapons pursuits.

The White House let it be known the two countries are launching an African famine relief initiative, with the United States to provide $674 million, the British to put in an unknown, but lesser, amount, and both to call on other nations to increase their contributions, too. Primarily aimed at addressing the food needs of 14 million people vulnerable to famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea, some of the money will fund humanitarian relief in Somalia and Djibouti.

There also was talk of an impending agreement among industrial nations to provide the poorest African countries complete relief from the debts they owe multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, the Africa Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. "We are a significant way toward a deal," Blair said before his meeting with Bush.

With four weeks to go before the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, Blair suggested he expected no breakthroughs during his Washington visit and still had plenty of time to win the support he needed from Bush and other world leaders.

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