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    Outgoing Blair Hopes For Moves On Climate Change, Africa At G8

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Raven, Jun 5, 2007.

    LONDON (AFP) - Tony Blair heads to Germany this week for his last G8 summit as prime minister, hoping to secure greater commitments on aid to Africa and movement on a new deal to tackle climate change.

    But his dealings with President Vladimir Putin will also be watched closely, as London and Moscow are locked in a diplomatic stand-off following the radiation poisoning death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

    For Blair, a key aim in Heiligendamm is getting fellow G8 leaders to recommit to the pledges they made at the 2005 summit he chaired in Gleneagles, Scotland, to double aid to Africa by the end of the decade.

    "We want to follow through on Gleneagles and we believe this G8 will be important in doing this," Blair's official spokesman told reporters Monday.

    Blair last week completed a three-country tour of Africa, whose plight he once described as a "scar on the conscience of the world," saying the international community had a moral obligation to do more.

    Amid concern that G8 pledges were not being sufficiently followed through, Blair called on the world's wealthiest countries to "step up to the plate" and deliver on their promises to alleviate suffering to impoverished Africans.

    Progress had been made in the last two years in overseas aid and debt relief, as well as for programmes tackling HIV/AIDS which is ravaging the continent, but there was still a way to go, he said.

    On climate change, Blair gave a cautious welcome to the United States' announcement last week to work for the first time with other nations to set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    But he said the world needs to go further, including setting a clear global target on cutting emissions and establishing the process for doing so.

    Britain favours the United Nations route for a new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, instead of a separate US-led process that has prompted fears that Washington is trying to bypass the existing mechanisms.

    As to what will be achieved in Germany, Blair's spokesman was non-committal.

    "We obviously want to see progress as far as possible. The question is how far can we get at this summit," he said.

    "Let's wait and see but we haven't lowered our ambitions at all. It's a question of how far down the road we go."

    Relations between the G8's newest and most controversial member are also likely to feature strongly on the agenda at the Baltic coast resort.

    Blair goes into his final meeting with Putin at the G8 days after the Russian leader described British attempts to extradite the chief suspect in the Litvinenko case as "foolishness" and politically motivated.

    There is also lingering anger in Moscow over Britain's refusal to extradite the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who has called for the overthrow of Putin's government, and the former Chechen rebel leader Akhmed Zakayev.

    More broadly, Putin has expressed concerns that US plans to site a missile defence shield in eastern Europe could trigger a new arms race.

    Blair's spokesman said such issues would not overshadow talks but added: "We want a constructive relationship. Whether there is a constructive relationship is as much up to Russia as to us."

    Blair's relationship with Putin is unlikely to change following the G8, Richard Sakwa, professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent in south-east England, told AFP.

    Instead, it will be for Blair's successor, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, to "mend fences" after he takes over on June 27.

    Europe also has a role to play in de-escalating hostility towards Russia, he added, calling for a "radical rethink" of its whole approach.

    "I do believe there has been a strategic failure to build a new system after the end of the Cold War," he said.

    "It's going to keep sneaking back... until we actually rethink fundamentally about letting Russia in not just as a guest but as a genuine partner where we respect Russia as an independent sovereign state with interests."

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