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Reply to "The Reality of Poverty in 2005"

Blair urges world to help Africa

LONDON, England (AP) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has challenged the world to help end the poverty, conflict and disease plaguing Africa, as he launched a major international report on how to ease the continent's woes.

"There can be no excuse, no defense, no justification for the plight of millions of our fellow beings in Africa today. There should be nothing that stands in our way of changing it. That is the simple message from the report published today," said Blair, unveiling the findings of his Africa Commission.

The 400-page report calls on the international community to immediately double foreign aid to Africa to $50 billion and make fighting AIDS a priority. It sets 100 percent debt cancellation as a goal and urges rich nations to drop trade barriers that hurt poor countries.

It also says African leaders must move faster toward democracy, stamp out corruption and take other steps to improve how their countries are run.

Blair hopes the report will be embraced around the world as a blueprint for an African renaissance. He has made helping Africa a key priority for Britain's presidencies of both the powerful Group of Eight wealthiest nations and the European Union this year.

"In a world where prosperity is increasing and more people sharing each year in this growing wealth, it is an obscenity that should haunt our daily thoughts that 4 million children in Africa will die this year before their fifth birthday," Blair added, calling for a new partnership between the developing world and Africa.

Africans and others working to solve the continent's deep troubles say the challenge now is to implement the report's recommendations.

"Unless we deliver, it'll just be another report," said Myles Wickstead, the director of the Commission for Africa.

The 17 members of the Commission for Africa, chaired by Blair and including Live Aid activist and musician Bob Geldof and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, have acknowledged that other high profile efforts to rescue Africa have foundered.

But they hope the report will muster concerted international action in a year that governments and aid agencies say is a make or break year for the continent.

"This report can be a rallying call for a generation that will no longer tolerate the obscenity of extreme poverty in Africa -- or it could end up gathering dust," said Adrian Lovett of the anti-poverty group Oxfam.

"It's now up to world leaders to rise to the challenge, to take long-overdue action and make this a breakthrough year for Africa."


Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.