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Chirac Calls for Rich Country Solidarity with Africa

French President Jacques Chirac is calling for significant increases in development aid to Africa, saying globalization of the world economy requires rich-country solidarity with the poor ones.

Speaking via videolink to the the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Chirac proposed an international tax to raise some of the capital.

Mr. Chirac said it is morally imperative that rich countries do more to alleviate poverty. Speaking via a video link from Paris, the French president said African countries have little chance of matching the stunning success of China, where a decade of rapid economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty.

Instead, he said, Africa needs more help to boost growth and fight the AIDS epidemic.

Mr. Chirac said that to reach the United Nations' Millennium Development goal of reducing world poverty by 50 percent by 2015, official development assistance needs to rise by $50 billion. But, he said the private sector also needs to be mobilized.

"I propose that the large developed countries should set up incentives to stimulate and encourage private donations for development," Mr. Chirac said. "The great surge of solidarity that was shown following the tidal wave in the Indian Ocean demonstrated that people are willing to give. This voluntary approach is not necessarily limited to individuals. It could also apply to the major global economic players."

More controversially, Mr. Chirac proposed a voluntary tax, which he called an international solidarity levy, on certain business transactions. He said they might include a special levy on fuel used for air or sea transportation. He said a one-dollar levy on every airplane ticket would raise three billion dollars a year.

Mr. Chirac's appeal was quickly endorsed by the Africans among the 2,500 participants at the forum. Gertrude Mongella, the Tanzanian who heads the Pan African parliament, enthusiastically endorsed Mr. Chirac's call for a solidarity levy.

"That is what came out very clearly from Chirac, his attention to Africa," she said. "I used to go to meetings where no-one mentioned Africa even once. But he did go through talking about Africa. My concern is that [whether] the G-8 takes the same cue."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also addressed the Economic Forum on the plight of the African economies. Mr. Blair left no doubt that as the host of this year's summit of the world's richest industrial countries plus Russia - the G8 - will indeed to focus on Africa's problems.

"There is no doubt that a substantial uplift in aid is essentia," he saidl. "That is why Britain has proposed a doubling of aid. The international finance facility is one way to finance this with the minimum possible impact on countries budgets."

Mr. Blair also endorsed more generous debt relief for the poorest African countries.