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Switch aid to poorest, says Brown

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Switch aid to poorest, says Brown

The EU should give more financial aid to the poorest countries and less to middle income areas like the western Balkans, the chancellor has said.

Gordon Brown said it was "nonsensical" that less then 50% of EU development aid was spent on low income countries.

He called for the EU to reform its aid budget and redirect 1bn euros from its external actions budget to the poorest.

But EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten said Mr Brown was confusing two types of EU overseas aid.

Mr Brown made the call at a meeting of British aid agencies in London, as Tony Blair was discussing the future of the African continent in Ethiopia.

He pointed out that middle income countries received 28 euros per head, compared with 3 euros per head for Africa and 0.3 euros per head for Asia, where the majority of the world's poor lives.

Gaza strip

Mr Patten said the chancellor was "comparing apples with oranges" and making a "ludicrous argument" which "he must know is bogus".

Not all EU external assistance was part of the aid budget, he told BBC Radio 4's World at One.

He accused Mr Brown of comparing "the things that [Foreign Secretary] Jack Straw is in favour of, like spending money in Iraq, with the things [international Development Secretary] Hilary Benn is in favour of like spending money in the poorest parts of Africa".

"I don't believe it's the British government's policy that we should stop spending money in Kosovo... or in the Gaza strip or the West Bank," he continued.

But Mr Patten said he was planning to propose to EU finance ministers that conventional funding and development assistance were given different legal bases.

'Most acute'

International Development Minister Gareth Thomas agreed with the chancellor that more development aid should be spent on the world's poorest.

There was a strong case for reforming EU overseas spending budgets, he said.

"What we want the commission to do is review how they could best allocate their funding worldwide to meet all their objectives - one of which is to get more money to low income countries.. where the needs of the very poorest are most acute."

That aim could be met by offering loans to middle income countries such as those in North Africa and the Balkans and shift the money that is saved to the poorest regions, he suggested.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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