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Leaders pledge $1 billion for AIDS

AIDS
Annan speaks about AIDS, flanked by the leaders of Italy, France, the United States and Great Britain (from right to left).  


GENOA, Italy -- Leaders of the world's top industrialised countries have pledged $1 billion for a global AIDS fund.

As some anti-globalisation protesters clashed violently with police outside the summit venue, leaders from the G7 group -- U.S., UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan -- plus Russia, covered a range of global topics.

One protester was killed during the clashes, but the cause of death was not confirmed by the Italian Interior Ministry.

President George W. Bush and the other summit leaders met in an historic Genoese palace while police used tear gas, water cannons and batons to prevent protesters breaching the security perimeter.

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Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi announced the creation of the $1 billion global health fund to battle AIDS and other infectious diseases in poor nations.

Bush and the other summit leaders were at the announcement with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"For the first time, we are seeing the emergence of a response to this deadly disease that begins to match the scale of the epidemic itself," Annan told the leaders.

But he said the $1 billion in initial pledges fell short of the $7 billion to $10 billion needed to adequately fight AIDS and other infectious diseases in poor nations.

"The fund has already received more than $1 billion in contributions from governments, foundation, businesses and private citizens," he said. This is a very good beginning, but much much more is needed. I therefore appeal to governments, civil society, to the private sector, foundations and individuals to contribute to the fight against AIDS in anyway they can."

The G8 countries have debated over who will have control of the fund. Bush has said the U.S. will increase its initial pledge of $200 million only after the fund proves successful, AP said. Annan urged unity, saying "In this debate, there is no 'us' and 'them,' ... only a common enemy that knows no frontiers and threatens all peoples."

The issuing of a statement covering the economic discussions was delayed after the leaders ordered their aides to add a stronger statement addressing the protesters' accusations that rich nations were not doing enough to help the poor, an aide to Berlusconi told AP.

Officials said the leaders also reviewed the situation in Turkey, another country currently facing an economic crisis.

The leaders also focused on ways to keep a severe slowdown in the U.S. from pushing the global economy into a recession.

Before the summit opened, Bush said he would tell his partners that his massive tax cut and aggressive easing of credit by the Federal Reserve would be enough to lift the U.S. economy and promote higher world growth as long as other countries did their part.

Leaders
Leaders gather around a table for the first working session of the G8 summit.  

"It really begins with each of our own countries making sure our economic houses are in order," Bush declared.

Other topics covered included the contentious Kyoto treaty on limiting emissions of so-called "greenhouse gases", which Bush has refused to sign up to.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that he was continuing efforts to persuade Bush to accept the treaty to control greenhouse gases.

"We have not changed our thinking that we will do our best to see the treaty take effect in 2002," Japanese officials quoted Koizumi as telling Schroeder, AP reported.

French President Jacques Chirac told Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien: "There is no alternative to the Kyoto protocol and to the efforts to reduce green house gas emissions," according to French government officials who briefed reporters.






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