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Blair hopes to sway Bush on two key issues
Scripps Howard News Service


June 06, 2005

Washington - British Prime Minister Tony Blair is making a pilgrimage to Washington this week in hopes of influencing President Bush on aid to Africa and global climate change in advance of the G8 Summit in Scotland next month.

Blair is looking to convince Bush to embrace a plan to dramatically increase international aid to Africa while also providing debt relief to the chronically impoverished continent. The prime minister also is expected to, once again, take Bush's temperature to determine whether the president is willing to move ahead to address global warming.

Both Downing Street and the White House maintain the session involving the two allies is unlikely to result in any immediate understandings. Any agreements will come during the meeting of the world's eight powers at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland, July 6-8. Besides Britain and the United States, the group includes Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.

Blair is facing a hard sell despite the amicable relations. Bush already has expressed disinclination toward a plan pushed by Gordon Brown, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, to create an International Finance Facility that would sell government-backed bonds intended to provide Africa with $100 billion by 2015 to fight poverty and disease. The president said the proposal doesn't fit into U.S. budget plans.

Climate change is even less likely to attract Bush's support. One of his first acts after taking office during his first term was to reject the Kyoto Protocol, which set goals for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other elements that scientists maintain contribute to global warming.

Blair, almost midway through his yearlong term as head of the G8, has focused on African poverty and global warming. He is in the midst of a tour to drum up support for a draft agenda that doesn't include specific targets or timetables to cut global warming and doesn't mention the Kyoto Protocol.

The Blair visit, which includes dinner at the White House on Tuesday, comes at an insecure time. The prime minister last month won a third term, unprecedented for a Labor Party PM, but lost a substantial number of seats in the House of Commons, leading to speculation that he may step aside soon, perhaps in favor of Brown.

Part of Blair's problem, analysts maintain, stems from Britain's involvement in the war in Iraq, where he closely aligned himself with Bush, who is not a popular figure in the isles. Britain has lost 89 troops since the onset of hostilities.

Bush is facing his own problems on the home front. Recent polls show that less than 50 percent of the public approves of the way he is performing his job and a majority now opposes the U.S. decision to invade Iraq.


Reach Bill Straub at straubb(at)

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