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IN THE NEWS - Wealthy Nations Consider Canceling Debt of Poor Ones

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I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. Hopes grew all week for a plan to cancel the debt of some of the world's poorest countries.

On Friday, Britain's finance minister said he expected the Group of Eight nations to reach an agreement. Gordon Brown said the debt cancellation plan would be the largest ever. But Mister Brown also said much remains to be discussed.

The treasury chief commented as Group of Eight finance ministers gathered in London for two days of talks. G-Eight leaders will meet July sixth through the eighth in Scotland. Two major issues to discuss are Africa and climate change.

British officials said the plan would cancel the debt of eighteen countries at first. Officials say the plan could help close to forty countries in all.

The Group of Eight countries are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia. They have disagreed about how best to deal with the huge debts owed by poor countries. Some G-Eight members have proposed not to cancel debts, but to suspend repayments. Another issue is how to pay for debt cancellation.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with President Bush in Washington this week. They said Britain and the United States were close to agreement on a proposal for the G-Eight. Mister Bush said it would cancel one hundred percent of the debt of "highly indebted developing countries that are on the path to reform." He said additional resources provided would protect the financial security of the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

George Bush, Tony Blair at White House news conference Tuesday
George Bush, Tony Blair at White House news conference Tuesday

Mister Bush said American aid to Africa south of the Sahara is three times higher than it was four years ago. He said America now provides nearly one-fourth of all aid to that area, and wants to do more in the future.

The President announced more than six hundred seventy million dollars in aid for Africa. The extra assistance is to help feed an estimated fourteen million people at risk of starving in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Somalia and Djibouti are also expected to receive extra aid.

But Mister Bush said no developed nation wants to give money to dishonest governments that do not take an interest in their people. Nor is there interest, he says, in supporting governments that do not have open economies and open markets. Mister Bush said aid helps. But, in his words, "many African nations have come to discover that through trade, they can develop a more hopeful society."

Tony Blair wants wealthy countries to increase aid to Africa by one hundred percent over the next five years. Britain is president of the Group of Eight this year. The prime minister has made fighting disease and poverty in Africa major goals.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.

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