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World Bank Chief Says War on Terrorism Drains Funds from Needy - 2004-09-24


The president of the World Bank says the international community is so focused on fighting terrorism that it is ignoring the needs of development and poverty alleviation in regions such as Africa.

In an interview with London's Financial Times newspaper, World Bank President James Wolfensohn warned that global policymakers have been distracted from some of the world's most pressing development issues because of terrorism and security concerns.

He spoke with the newspaper in Washington, where the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are preparing the agenda for their annual meeting next month.

One of the key topics will be debt relief for Iraq, which owes about $120 billion on Saddam Hussein-era loans. The United States favors a 90 percent reduction, but France and other creditors argue that would be too generous.

Mr. Wolfenson said he recognizes there is immediate preoccupation with Iraq, Afghanistan and terrorism, but the longer term issues of reducing global poverty and speeding up development also need attention.

He particularly criticized the amount of global spending on defense, about $900 billion a year, which he said is 15-20 times the amount spent on development assistance.

The British government had no official reaction to Mr. Wolfensohn's remarks, but Prime Minister Tony Blair has said assistance for Africa will be a top priority during Britain's tenure next year as head of both the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the European Union.

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