Blair Seeks Bush's Help for Africa Aid

Seeking U.S. commitment for providing famine relief in Africa will be among the top issues on British Prime Minister Tony Blair's agenda when he meets U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington today.

Blair Seeks Bush's Help for Africa AidU.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair seen at Camp David, the presidential retreat near Thurmont, Maryland, in this September 2002 file photo. REUTERS/Win McNamee

Although the U.S. committed to giving $674 million for famine relief in Africa recently, Britain is seeking to double support for the continent by enlisting the help of the U.S. along with other industrialized nations ahead of the July G8 summit in Scotland.

In the UK, the Make Poverty History campaign, which includes members of Christian relief aid organizations and other social service groups has been making a strong push toward increasing debt relief, and poverty aid to Africa. A few days before the summit, at least 100,000 are expected to attend a march through Edinburgh.

The Prime Minister is looking for a long term commitment to African poverty and debt relief. He plans to use the meeting in Scotland to raise an extra $50 billion in funds by selling bonds on the world's capital markets, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. has insited that it will draw funds for relief from the current budget of the Agriculture Department. Both countries are planning to announce a joint initiative to address humanitarian needs in Africa.

In addition, Blair is seeking for environmental reforms by implementing the Kyoto protocol, although he recently acknowledged that doubling U.S. commitment to Africa and full compliance with Kyoto will not happen. However, he is hopeful that progress can be made on his G-8 priorities.

"Certain things we know they are not going to do," said Blair, in an interview with Financial Times on Monday.

But he added, "Wait and see. There's all sorts of ways people can get into this argument. We are at the beginning of the process."

Blair needs U.S. support but isn't looking for a major breakthrough in Washington. However, he hopes that the United States and Britain can agree that Africa is a priority, according to a British spokesman.