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Activists slam G8 pledge on Africa

Story Highlights

• G8 leaders agree $60 billion pledge to fight diseases such as AIDS in Africa
• Anti-poverty activists say rich countries have failed to keep previous promises
• President Bush, suffering a stomach ailment, missed the meeting
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HEILIGENDAMM, Germany -- Development campaigners have criticized a pledge by the leaders of the world's richest nations on Friday to give $60 billion to fight diseases such as AIDS in Africa.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hosting G8 leaders and heads of five African states, hailed the promise as the highlight of the three-day summit, along with Thursday's deal to push for greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

"We are conscious of our obligations and want to fulfil the promises we made. And we will do that," said Merkel. "We also gave a push to the fight against AIDS," she told reporters.

G8 leaders said they would provide at least $60 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, global diseases that have devastated African countries and their economies.

But the declaration set no specific timetable, saying the money would flow "over the coming years." It also did not make clear individual countries' contributions or how much of the sum had been previously promised.

Anti-poverty activists complain that the rich countries have failed to keep promises the G8 made to increase annual aid to poor countries at the Gleneagles summit in Scotland in 2005. Many were also unimpressed with Friday's deal, which restated those pledges.

"I am exasperated," Irish rock star and anti-poverty campaigner Bono told Reuters. "I think it is deliberately the language of obfuscation. It is deliberately misleading."

Campaigners for Africa say the promise is mainly comprised of money that was announced previously, including $30 billion from the United States.

"While lives will be saved with more money for AIDS, this represents a cap on ambition that will ultimately cost millions more lives," Steve Cockburn, of the Stop AIDS Campaign, told Reuters.

An advocacy organization working to eradicate poverty and AIDS in Africa said that a pledge of an extra $25 billion dollars made at the Gleneagles summit was not kept.

At the end of last year, only $2.3 billion of that promised amount, which is to be paid by 2010, had been delivered, said Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA -- or Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa.

"The G8 as a whole in 2006 did about half of the aid levels they promised -- just under half. They're planning for 2007 to do just under a third of what they promised. So there's a pattern of off-track behavior," Drummond said.

According to DATA, only Britain and Japan are meeting their promises.

Canada, the United States and Germany are slipping behind, and France and Italy are at the bottom.

No hard goals on climate change

On Thursday, the G8 leaders agreed to a communique under which nations will stabilize, then reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will "seriously consider" plans by the European Union, Canada and Japan for halving emissions by 2050.

The leaders "accepted the latest scientific evidence" of the dangers of global warming but set no targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (Full story)

Germany's Merkel, whose country has the rotating G8 presidency for 2007, had pressed for firm targets, but claimed she was "very satisfied" with Thursday's outcome.

The leaders accepted the latest scientific evidence of the danger of inaction, she said.

The G8 nations also agreed to work through the United Nations for a successor to the protocol.

Bush, Putin meet amid tensions

Threatening to overshadow the G8 summit was a dispute between the U.S. and Russia over a U.S. missile defense system. On Thursday, Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to cooperate on missile-defense after a surprise offer by Putin to use an existing radar station that Russia rents in neighboring Azerbaijan. (Full story)

Bush said the men agreed to share ideas, and involve officials from the U.S. State Department, Department of Defense and military.

The feud had angered protesters, saying it detracted from priority issues, such as poverty in Africa and climate change.

The row also angered pop cultures figures such as U2 singer Bono, long an advocate for international aid to Africa.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Bono said the fact that "people love a good cockfight" had shifted attention from Africa to the Bush-Putin spat. (Watch Bono say the G8 has failed to keep its promises on Africa aid Video)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel with other world leaders on Friday


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