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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 00:34 GMT 01:34 UK
G8 analysis: Peanuts or progress?
Russian President Vladimir Putin toasts British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Something to toast? For Russia, maybe
BBC News Online's Paul Reynolds

The G8 meeting in the Canadian Rocky Mountains was billed as a summit for Africa - but the people of Africa have still been left with a long way to climb.

The G8 did promise an extra $1bn in debt relief for those countries whose commodity exports have been hard hit.

And they earmarked for Africa $6bn of the $12bn they promised all poorer countries at a conference in Mexico recently, though how this is to be spent remains to be decided.

Individual countries also announced extra programmes of help.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar talks to South African President Thabo Mbeki
The summit declared a genuine partnership, but does Europe see itself above Africa?
So the African leaders who attended did not go away empty handed.

But nor were their hands full.

The aid is being tied to a new pledge from African states to put their own houses in order under a plan called the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

This is seeking $64bn over a period of years so the sums pledged in Canada do not meet that ambition.

The meeting has not solved the 'leaking bucket syndrome' in which aid to Africa leaks out in debt repayments

Andrew Mendleton
Christian Aid
Frankly, they were never expected to.

This, at best, is a start. At worst, it is a token.

The G8 decisions were enough for the British Prime Minister Tony Blair to declare progress.

There was now a "genuine partnership for the renewal of Africa", he said. The meeting would send out a "signal of hope".

The Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo politely commented: "There is nothing that is human that can be regarded as perfect."

But campaigners for Africa said it was not enough.

"Peanuts" was their slogan.

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Andrew Mendleton of Christian Aid told BBC News Online: "The meeting has not solved the 'leaking bucket syndrome' in which aid to Africa leaks out in debt repayments."

Nor had Africa got a strong enough commitment, he said, that trade rules would be relaxed in its favour.

Better news for Russia

If the message to Africa was a mixed one, the message to Russia was more positive.

A so-called "10 plus 10 over 10" programme was agreed under which Russia will get $10bn from the United States (almost certainly) and $10bn from the other countries (much less certainly) over 10 years to help destroy chemical weapons, decommission nuclear power plants in submarines, remove nuclear weapons material and find work for Russian weapons scientists.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and French President Jacques Chirac adjust earpieces while British Prime Minister Tony Blair looks on
The leaders listened to each other but stuck to their own guns
The more generous spirit shown for this programme is driven by a desire in the West to prevent the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups.

Russia is also being brought fully into the G8 fold (it used to be G7 plus 1) and will host one of the summits soon.

So Mr Putin at least can be pleased.

And as usual at summits, the winds of the world blew in.

Middle East rift

President George W Bush's call for new Palestinian leadership, announced on the eve of the meeting, reminded everyone that the American focus is on terrorism in all its forms.

The rest of the world must understand this, like it or not.

Mr Bush declared that "the response has been positive" when asked about other leaders' reactions.

But at best it was lukewarm and some, like Gerhard Schroeder, the German chancellor, said: "As long as he [Yasser Arafat] is Palestinian president, he remains our interlocutor."

The gap between American and European perceptions was not allowed to dominate the summit, but it was awkward and visible.

Only Silvio Berlusconi of Italy sided with George Bush.

Even Tony Blair had to work hard to find a bridge.

Some valuable work

Mr Bush did get agreement, though, on some useful measures to tighten up security weaknesses in land, sea and air travel.

And the economic background to this meeting was not good, with another big American company, WorldCom, all but collapsing just beforehand and stock markets everywhere in depression.

So the mood was hardly an excited one.

The original idea of these summits was to have a kind of fireside chat.

From time to time, they do valuable work on the world economy (they are after all supposed to be economic summits) but over the years, they have been built up perhaps into something too grand and from which too much is expected.

It was not really much different this time.

Key stories

Aid debate

Africa's future





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