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G8 summit opens with focus on Africa on Day 1
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07:48, July 08, 2008

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Some African leaders and the UN chief on Monday called on the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations to fulfill their commitments on increasing aid to Africa as they met with the G8 leaders on the first day of the G8 summit in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Climate change, the world economy and African development figure high on the agenda of the Toyako summit of the G8, which groups Britain, Canada, Italy, Japan, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

The G8 leaders talked with the presidents of Algeria, South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia on aid to Africa and other issues Monday afternoon at the hilltop Windsor Hotel in Toyako, a resort town on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Group of Eight (G8) leaders pose for a photograph in front of bamboo for Japan's traditional star festival during a social event at the Windsor Hotel Toya in Toyako Town, Hokkaido, Japan, on Monday, July 7, 2008. From left to right, the leaders are Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, U.S. President George W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the G8 session with African leaders, urged the G8 nations to take concrete actions to honor their commitments made in 2005 of doubling aid to Africa by 2010.

"The G8 leaders should implement what they committed in Gleneagles by providing necessary funds," Ban told a press conference after the session, adding that Africa also demands better predictability in aid and aid efficiency.

A report issued last month by the Africa Progress Panel, which was set up to monitor the implementation of the Gleneagles commitments, said that under current spending plans, the G8 will fall 40 billion dollars short of its target.

The UN chief said this year marks the half-way point in the global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015,"but that progress in many African countries is not on track."

Speaking at the same press conference, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the leaders also discussed a system to better track the aid to ensure commitments were honored.

"Countries need to deliver on their promises, and that was the tone that was generally accepted in the discussion," he said.

Kazuo Kodama, press secretary of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, told reporters that African countries told the G8 leaders that they should "fully" implement the many aid promises made to Africa.

The African and G8 leaders also discussed surging oil and food prices, agricultural development in Africa, trade and investment and the Millennium Development Goals, he said.

With the spotlight on Africa on the first day of the summit, some non-governmental organizations urged developed countries, the G8 nations in particular, to make good on their promises on helping the African continent reduce poverty, fight diseases and build infrastructure.

Speaking to the press in Toyako, Max Lawson, policy adviser of the British charity Oxfam, said the G8 will miss its pledge of doubling aid to Africa at the Gleneagles summit as it has delivered only a small part of the promised aid more than halfway through the plan.

The G8 promised at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 to increase aid to developing countries to 50 billion U.S. dollars by 2010, of which 25 billion U.S. dollars will go to Africa.

The G8 has delivered only 14 percent of its promised aid to Africa three years into the five-year promise, Lawson said.

"We are worried. We are very worried that the aid promises would be watered down and that some of the key promises left out," Lawson said.

The gathering took on a touch of Japan when the leaders celebrated the traditional Japanese holiday of Tanabata, which fell on Monday, by writing their wishes on slips of paper and hanging them on bamboo.

The G8 leaders will meet for exclusive discussions on Tuesday before extending their talks on the third day to include leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa for an outreach session.

Leaders from Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa will join the G8 leaders for a major economies leaders meeting on Wednesday to discuss climate change and energy security.

Source: Xinhua

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