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Bush, Blair to Discuss Africa Aid at White House

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair meet at the White House Tuesday to talk about Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the two leaders have a broad agenda, including fighting terrorism, training Iraqi security forces and backing the Middle East peace process.

The prime minister will brief the president on European efforts to convince Iran to stop enriching uranium. The two are also expected to discuss multi-lateral talks aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Prime Minister Blair is meeting with world leaders ahead of next month's summit of major industrialized nations in Scotland.

At the top of his agenda is an ambitious, $50 billion plan to double development assistance for Africa in 10 years, end many trade subsidies, and forgive all outstanding African debt to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank.

The White House does not support that plan. President Bush told South African President Thabo Mbeki last week that he has made his position pretty clear on an initiative which he says does not fit Washington's budgetary process.

But the White House does not want to appear stingy on funding for Africa at a time when the prime minister is calling African poverty the fundamental moral challenge of our time.

Citing an interview with the Prime Minister in London's Financial Times, White House spokesman McClellan says the British leader is not asking President Bush to sign on to the plan. In the interview, the prime minister said he has given up trying to get the president to back efforts to raise additional development funds on international money markets because he is certain it is something the White House is not going to do.

Mr. McClellan says the two leaders have a shared goal of development assistance for Africa and are moving forward on what he calls a common approach.

As part of the talks, President Bush will announce $674 million of additional assistance for humanitarian emergencies in Africa. Mr. McClellan says the funds will be used to address the needs of 14 million people in Ethiopia and Eritrea while providing additional resources for Somalia and Djibouti.

While the White House spokesman made clear this funding is not part of the prime minister's Africa plan, Mr. McClellan says the joint U.S.-UK commitment shows the countries are working together.

"We have a shared goal to promote strong, democratic institutions in Africa and to help promote economic prosperity in Africa," he said. "The president greatly appreciates Prime Minister Blair's leadership when it comes to putting reform and development in Africa at the center of the G8 summit."

Mr. McClellan says the United States has tripled development assistance to Africa since President Bush took office. During this fiscal year, he says, Washington has already spent nearly $1.4 billion to address humanitarian needs in Africa.

 

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