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Senior British Official Proposes 'Marshall Plan' for Africa

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, is meeting African Finance Ministers in Cape Town to develop a major financial initiative to boost development on the continent. Mr. Brown is characterizing it as a modern day "Marshall Plan" for Africa.

Mr. Brown says says it is time for the rich nations of the world to deliver on promises made to Africa by instituting a $50 billion rescue effort along the lines of the Marshall Plan adopted by the United States to help Europe rebuild after World War II.

"And I believe the evidence we are receiving and have received to the Commission of Africa, shows us in the starkest terms, that justice promised will forever be justice denied unless we remove from this generation the burden of debts incurred by past generations," he said. "Justice promised will forever not be justice delivered, unless we remove trade barriers that undermine economic empowerment."

Mr. Brown was speaking to African finance ministers in Cape Town at a meeting of the British sponsored Commission for Africa - a project of Prime Minister Tony Blair to fight poverty and boost prosperity on the continent.

The plan will be fully unveiled in March and presented to the next G-8 meeting of industrialized nations in Scotland this July by Mr. Blair who has promised to put Africa on top of the G-8 agenda. A cornerstone of the plan will be massive debt relief and a plan to channel money saved in this way to education, health and infrastructure.

South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Mr. Brown's co-host in Cape Town, says that debt relief for Africa's poorest countries is not beyond the means of the rich nations, as they have shown elsewhere.

"The decision [in November 2004] by the Paris Club to write off debt to Iraq in a single day provided more debt relief than all of Hipic [Heavily Indebted Poor Countries' Initiative] has been able to deliver since its introduction in 1996," he said.

Mr. Brown described as "scandalous" protections imposed by rich nations to protect their industries, including agriculture. He said there is now no more time to waste in implementing reforms that will assist African economies.

"No longer evading, no longer procrastinating, no more excuses - not an idea that would take years to implement, but one that can move forward immediately," he said.

In a related development, Nelson Mandela, South Africa's elder statesman, told Mr. Brown he would join him at the G-8 meeting in July to lobby for the plan.