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Blair on Farewell Trip to Africa


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in Libya at the start of a three-nation tour of Africa, less than one month before he leaves office.

Mr. Blair met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in a tent in the Libyan leader's home town of Sirte. In addition to his meeting with Gadhafi, Mr. Blair also was scheduled to meet with other Libyan officials for talks on the violence in Sudan's troubled Darfur region and other issues.

Shortly before Mr. Blair's arrival, Libya announced it has reached a $900-million exploration deal with British energy giant British Petroleum.

Mr. Blair's office says he also will visit Sierra Leone and South Africa.

Officials say he will be trying to build "momentum for progress" ahead of next week's talks on climate change, trade and other issues at the Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations in Germany.

A spokeswoman says Mr. Blair wants the world's richest countries to honor pledges for African debt relief, and to make new commitments to support education and HIV-AIDS programs on the continent.

In related news, Russia has announced plans to significantly reduce the debt of Africa's poorest nations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement issued Tuesday that Russia has canceled $11.3 billion in African debt.

Mr. Lavrov said Russia is planning to increase the amount by $500 million this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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