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British Commission on African Aid Reaches Final Stage in Releasing Report

Britain's Commission for Africa has concluded its last meeting before publishing its report on March 11 on how the world community can help the continent fight poverty, disease and underdevelopment.

The commission is the brainchild of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has made the plight of the continent a key issue this year, as Britain chairs both the Group of Eight industrial nations and the European Union.

After two days of commission meetings in London, Mr. Blair said the report coming out next month will lay the foundation for his campaign to win the support of rich nations to help the world's poorest continent.

"It will set out a comprehensive plan with a very powerful vision for a strong and prosperous Africa, two adjectives that at the moment applied to Africa seem hugely remote from the reality of people's lives there," he said.

One of the commission members, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, expresses hope the report will rally the political will, in Africa and elsewhere, to implement its recommendations.

"If we all share the feeling that defeat is too ghastly to contemplate. If we are all convinced that Africa can do it, and all it needs from you non-Africans is to give it a fighting chance, then I think the commission will have been worthwhile," he said.

Mr. Blair indicates that along with debt relief, a fairer system of global trade will be one of the recommendations in the report. "If we mean what we say, which is that we cannot do everything for Africa, but Africa actually wants to take responsibility itself, then we cannot have a situation where we are keeping African goods out of our markets, putting tariff barriers in place, destroying the possibility of African enterprise and business doing what we want and expect for our own business and enterprise," he said.

During the London talks, commission members met British business leaders who say they are willing to participate in programs to foster prosperity in Africa.

However, there is a cautionary note from the chairman of the Commonwealth Business Council, Mohan Kaul, who says corruption and inefficiency in African countries must be dealt with honestly.