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Activist: President Sarkozy "must keep promises" to Africa
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11:33, June 22, 2008

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy's promises to increase aid to Africa and to fight poverty becomes apriority for Europe must be kept, a leading international humanitarian activist has said.

"President Sarkozy must keep his promises and must take the lead in the fight against poverty," Bob Geldof, an internationally renowned British rock singer, told reporters Friday following discussions with the French authorities.

The British singer was responding to remarks attributed to France's Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet, who recently admitted that France was finding it "difficult" to meet its commitments to assist countries in Africa.

According to the British rocker, Sarkozy has two options to choose from in his drive "to fulfill his commitments" in terms of aid to the African continent.

"Firstly, he should tell European Union leaders in Brussels that keeping the promise of aid will be the top-most priority and then by ensure that these promises are reflected in the budget" of the Brussels-based 27-member states bloc, said Geldof.

In his remarks, the British singer recalled that, with the exception of Britain, European countries had largely failed to fulfill their commitments to the continent.

In 2005, the G8, which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada, and Russia, had made a pledge to increase aid to Africa by more than 26 billion dollars by 2010. But since then, several revisions have seen this figure reduced to 21.8 billion dollars, according to official figures.

"Out of this figure, the share of France represents some 6.06 billion euros (about 9.4 billion U.S. dollars), of which only 2.3 billion euros had been paid as at the end of 2007," said Geldof, citing official figures.

"I understand the economic difficulties of France. But the problem is the same in Great Britain, and even in the United States. It is worse in Italy and the situation is neither good in Germany," he said, referring to a meeting he held with French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and Alain Joyandet in Paris on Wednesday.

"But if (British Prime Minister) Gordon Brown can achieve the promised objectives, Sarkozy can do so. If Bush can do, Nicolas Sarkozy can do it," said the British rocker, adding: "what we need is the political will to move in this direction."

Shortly after the Wednesday meeting, the junior French cooperation minister Alain Joyandet was quoted as saying that President Nicolas Sarkozy will "keep his word" with regard to aid to Africa.

"Nicolas Sarkozy keeps his word. He has only been at the Elysee for the last one year and has already taken three major initiatives," said Joyandet, who appeared to be keen to defend his boss after Bono and Bob Geldof accused the G8 countries of reneging on their promises to Africa.

The president "was the first to announce a doubling of food aid, he has proposed a global initiative for agriculture" and "has just put in place, under his leadership, a 500 million euro (about 750 million U.S. dollars) economic package for 'Africa," said the junior minister.

Noting that Sarkozy was preparing to allocate about 1 billion euros to the French Development Agency to spur economic development, mainly in Africa, the secretary of state said: "Rather than give fish, let's give the net and teach Africans how to use it."


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