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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
Blair rebukes US on global warming
Tony Blair in Dondo village, Mozambique
Mr Blair was moved by what he saw in Mozambique
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has rebuked countries like America which have failed to sign up to the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

Speaking at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Mr Blair did not mention the United States directly.

But he said the whole world had to face up to climate change, ratify Kyoto and then do more to cut pollution.

Poverty and environmental degradation, if unchecked, spell catastrophe for our world

Tony Blair

The prime minister urged world leaders in Johannesburg to show the "political will" needed to deliver solutions to poverty and cleaning up the environment.

Mr Blair argued too that richer nations had to open up their markets, particularly in agriculture, to developing countries - something that could affect European Union farm subsidies.

Iraq link rejected

Mr Blair said: "Poverty and environmental degradation, if unchecked, spell catastrophe for our world."

The prime minister is keen the summit should not be distracted from its main purpose by other issues, like Iraq and Zimbabwe.
Tony Blair and George Bush
Mr Blair's stance on Kyoto is at odds with US

Some commentators have seen Tony Blair's veiled criticism of American policy as convenient when the prime minister is accused of being in the sway of US President George Bush over Iraq.

Downing Street denies there is any connection and speaks of the need to persuade big business that economic success can run alongside anti-pollution measures.

Namibian President Sam Nujoma used his summit speech to accuse the UK of creating the problems in Zimbabwe and demanded European sanctions on Robert Mugabe be lifted.

Zimbabwe rift

Mr Mugabe is due to address the summit on Tuesday, but the two men will probably not speak to one another.

Mr Blair later said Mr Nujoma was "defending the utterly indefensible" but was offering only a minority view.

But Mr Blair's decision not to mention Zimbabwe in his keynote speech was attacked as "astonishing" by Conservative shadow international development secretary Caroline Spelman.
Wiseman, aged 13 months, in hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg
The PM was moved by Aids victims

Mrs Spelman also said she was sceptical about the prime minister's rhetoric about helping Africa when UK targets on debt relief for developing countries were now slipping.

About 100 other world leaders are also joining the summit on Monday, after negotiators from the 200 countries taking part talked through the night to try and come up with the blueprint for a deal.

The summit's final phase opened with South African President Thabo Mbeki pressing leaders to take concrete action on poverty and the environment.

A deal has been reached to halve the number of people lacking basic sanitation by 2015.

But critical differences remain over setting targets for the use of cleaner forms of energy, such as wind and solar power.

Anti-corruption drive

New plans to stop big companies trying to bribe Third World officials are also on Mr Blair's summit agenda.

But reports suggest the new anti-corruption code will be voluntary, something that has provoked fierce criticism from aid charities and environmental campaign groups.

In his 10-minute summit speech, Mr Blair was at pains to stress that helping developing countries was not charity.

"The key characteristic of today's world is its interdependence," said Mr Blair. "Your problem becomes our problem."

Referring to criticism of summit extravagance, Mr Blair insisted the conference could and would make the world change for the better.

There had been "real progress" since the Rio Earth Summit 10 years ago on halting environmental damage, he said.

Township visit

On Monday, the prime minister told the summit how moved he was by what he saw on his weekend visit to Mozambique, a country ravaged by HIV/Aids and malaria.

Later on Monday, Mr Blair will visit the nearby Alexandra township, where thousands live in poverty, minutes away from the relatively luxurious surroundings of the summit itself.

His speech was welcomed as "positive" by Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Malcolm Bruce but the real test would be how words were turned into action.

Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett said the speech was disappointing.

"It was full of exhortations urging everyone to do the right thing ... but lacking in new British commitments to action," said Mr Secrett.

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See also:

02 Sep 02 | Africa
02 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Sep 02 | Africa
01 Sep 02 | Business
01 Sep 02 | Politics
28 Aug 02 | Archive
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