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Tony Blair Flies Out on Africa Mission

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Tony Blair flies to Africa later on Tuesday for a series of meetings to help find solutions to the problems faced by the continent.

The prime minister's aides insist his health is up to the gruelling schedule after his recent heart procedure.

They say he is "fresh and alert" after treatment for an irregular heartbeat.

During the three-day trip, Mr Blair will attend a session of his Africa taskforce, the Commission for Africa, in Ethiopia.

'Short-sighted approach'

Mr Blair launched the commission in February 2004 to assess the African situation and draw up future policies after calling Africa's problems a "scar on the world's conscience".

It also aims to generate increased support for the Africa Action Plan drawn up by the G8 of leading industrialised nations.

The Ethiopian talks will also be attended by Band Aid organiser Bob Geldof, 20 years after his appeal to help people starving there raised £90m.

The commission is scheduled to report its findings in time for them to be discussed by the G8, when the UK takes over its presidency next year.

Mr Blair has promised to make the plight of Africa one of the twin focuses of his G8 chairmanship, along with climate change.

The commission session, starting on Thursday, will be "workmanlike" and assess progress made so far, Mr Blair's spokesman said.

"It's important that Africa sees this report has been produced with Africa rather for Africa and that's why it's important we meet in Ethiopia.

"What the prime minister wants is a report which reflects the reality of what works and what doesn't work in Africa, which advocates the importance to the rest of the world on how to turn Africa around."

The key was helping "Africa help itself" but there were no "instant solutions", the spokesman added.

'Worse off'

International development secretary Hilary Benn will accompany Mr Blair on the trip.

Earlier this week, the charity Save the Children called for a longer term approach to aid in countries such as Ethiopia.

Aid should focus on lifting people out of poverty rather than concentrating on food hand-outs, it said.

Spokesman Mike Aaronson, said millions of people in Ethiopia's historically famine-prone northeastern highlands were "worse off and more vulnerable than ever".

He said "lack of political will" by world leaders and "paltry" aid had not helped the nation combat persistent food shortages.

"It is shocking that 20 years after Band Aid millions of children still experience hunger," he said.

"Yet, in the last 20 years, donors have shown a lack of political will and a short-sighted approach to aid that has compounded poverty in Ethiopia."

Closed markets

Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world - the average annual income is £56.

But Africa as a whole has fallen dramatically behind other developing regions with declining economic growth rates and increasing poverty.

It is the only region in the developing world which is no better off than it was 25 years ago.

Declining levels of aid from richer countries and closed markets for African goods have made things worse for the continent.

Source

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Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world - the average annual income is £56.

Well I just found your problem

Despite being one of the poorest nations, you have a population bigger than Britain (70.7 million compared to 60 million) ... let alone ANY European state before they were industrialised.

To many people, to few resources.

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Blair in Sudan for peace talks

Tony Blair is holding talks in Sudan with the country's president on how to end fighting in the Darfur region which has cost 50,000 lives.

He will try to persuade President Omar Ahmed al-Bashir to comply with UN resolutions and make peace with rebels.

Mr Blair is also insisting Sudan's government allows aid organisations access to 1.4m refugees and a fuller role for African Union peacekeepers.

He is staying in Khartoum on the first leg of a three-day trip to Africa.

Sudan must comply with UN resolutions, it must negotiate a peaceful settlement with the rebels

Tony Blair's spokesman

Mr Blair is underlining the "clear message from the international community" that Khartoum must take steps to alleviate the suffering in Darfur, his spokesman said.

It comes a day after the UN special envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk called for a beefed up Africa Union peacekeeping force to be deployed.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn is accompanying Mr Blair on the trip.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "The prime minister's visit is part of the process of continuing to put pressure on the government of Sudan to do the things that they need to do to improve security."

He added that only a political solution could bring the crisis to a halt.

'Catastrophe'

Unless there is concrete progress in the next few days, the British Government should initiate limited sanctions against Sudan

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell

The conflict in the remote western region involving a government-backed militia known as the Janjaweed has been declared genocide by the US government and has led to 1.4m people being displaced.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said Mr Blair's backing for the planned expansion of the African Union's peacekeeping force in Darfur to 3,500 troops was not enough "to deal with the unfolding catastrophe".

"Thousands more troops are needed, and they should be given an express UN mandate to use force to protect civilians.

"Aid agencies report there has been no improvement in Darfur during the past 12 months.

"Unless there is concrete progress in the next few days, the British government should initiate limited sanctions against Sudan."

Another Rwanda

Independent cross-bench peer Lord Alton, who helped set up the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign, has just returned from Darfur.

He warned the international community were "sleepwalking" into another Rwanda and urged it to impose oil sanctions and a declare a no fly zone in the region.

After meeting President al-Bashir and his deputy Ali Osman Taha, Mr Blair will fly to Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Here he will hold talks on Wednesday evening with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

He will also attend a session of his Africa taskforce, the Commission for Africa.

Mr Blair launched the commission in February 2004 to assess the African situation and draw up future policies after calling Africa's problems a "scar on the world's conscience".

The Ethiopian talks will also be attended by Band Aid organiser Bob Geldof, 20 years after his appeal to help people starving there raised £90m.

'Self-help'

The commission is scheduled to report its findings in time for them to be discussed by the G8, when the UK takes over its presidency next year.

Mr Blair has promised to make the plight of Africa one of the twin focuses of his G8 chairmanship, along with climate change.

The commission session, starting on Thursday, will be "workmanlike" and assess progress made so far, Mr Blair's spokesman said.

"It's important that Africa sees this report has been produced with Africa rather than for Africa and that's why it's important we meet in Ethiopia.

The key was helping "Africa help itself" but there were no "instant solutions", the spokesman added.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/3718686.stm

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