G8 leaders strike deal on Africa pledge

World leaders agreed on Friday a $60-billion pledge to fight HIV/Aids and other killer diseases ravaging Africa.

”The issue is now fixed. The text is agreed,” a diplomat from a Group of Eight (G8) member country told Reuters on the final day of a summit of the club of industrialised nations. ”The agreement within the G8 will follow the US proposal to increase the aid for fighting these diseases to $60-billion in the forthcoming years with $30-billion coming from the US”.

United States President George Bush missed some of the morning sessions after suffering a stomach ailment. His condition was not serious, a White House official said.

Bush hoped to return to summit meetings later on Friday, White House aide Dan Bartlett told reporters.

The G8 countries were recommitting to pledges made at a 2005 summit in Scotland when they said they would double development funding by 2010, said diplomats and officials.

The $60-billion will be used to combat HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, global diseases that have been especially devastating for African peoples and their economies. But the timetable is vague.

Campaigners for Africa say the pledge is made up largely of money which has already been announced, including $30-billion from the US, and falls short of United Nations targets for extending treatment to tackle HIV/Aids.

”While lives will be saved with more money for Aids, this represents a cap on ambition that will ultimately cost millions more lives,” said Steve Cockburn of the Stop Aids Campaign.

Kosovo deadlock

Major powers were deadlocked on a compromise on the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo with Russia resisting the terms of a French plan to delay a United Nations vote on its independence.

”For the time being, the necessary progress has not been made,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters after talks with Bush.

Russia is opposing Western efforts to adopt a UN resolution that would clear the way for independence and Sarkozy has suggested a six-month delay in any vote to find more time for a deal.

Sarkozy said that Russia, in overnight talks among G8 leaders’ advisers, had not agreed to the proposal of a delay in return for recognising ”the unavoidable prospect” of independence for Kosovo.

Officials were also discussing Iran and were likely to confirm plans to back ”further measures” — in other words more UN sanctions — against Tehran if it continues to reject UN demands to halt uranium enrichment in its nuclear programme.

The United States has accused Iran of having secret plans to build nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear programme is solely for power to benefit its economy.

G8 leaders at the summit agreed on Thursday to pursue ”substantial” cuts in greenhouse gases to combat global warming.

The agreement binds the world’s largest polluter, the US, more closely into international efforts to curb the gases scientists say are causing dangerous changes to world weather patterns.

But it does not commit the G8 nations to the firm emissions reduction targets that Merkel had wanted. – Reuters

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