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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 16:48 GMT
Annan wants aid for poor doubled
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (L), Mexican President Vicente Fox (R) and his wife Martha Sahagun
The challenge is to halve extreme poverty by 2015
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged rich countries to double their annual assistance to poor nations.

Addressing an international conference in the northern city of Monterrey in Mexico, Mr Annan called such aid a critical test in a new campaign to stamp out poverty.

No-one in this world can feel comfortable, or safe, while so many are suffering and deprived

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
Opening the event, Mexican President Vicente Fox said: "We must have the courage to make this century a century of bridges and meetings, not of walls and barriers.

"The time to decide is now, today, here in Monterrey."

The Monterrey conference brings together 50 world leaders to review sources of development aid and to draft the Monterrey Consensus, a pledge to do more to combat poverty.

Ahead of the meeting, the prime ministers of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands issued a joint statement urging leaders to "do what it takes" to meet their pledge to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

Poor results

The president of the UN General Assembly Han Seung-Soo said that in the wake of 11 September "we will forcefully demand that development, peace and security are inseparable".

The time to decide is now, today, here in Monterrey

Mexican President Vicente Fox
He called poverty "the breeding ground for violence and despair".

Echoing the sentiment, Mr Annan said that, in an increasingly globalised world, rich nations depended on the stability of the poor ones more than ever.

"We live in one world, not two," he said. "No-one in this world can feel comfortable, or safe, while so many are suffering and deprived."

Launch new window : Graphics gallery
An unequal world

Mr Fox told the delegates that for decades nations had tried to confront the problem of development and poverty but "so far, the results have been poor, late and disheartening".

President George W Bush was due to arrive at the conference later on Thursday.

Not enough

The US has promised to increase foreign aid spending by 50% over three years from 2004, after the original plan set out by Mr Bush last week was criticised as not being enough.

The Bush administration has described the increase as a "clarification" of its former offer, but it would see development assistance rising from $10bn to $15bn by 2006.

Cuban President Fidel Castro
Cuban leader Fidel Castro is among the participants
Industrialised countries committed 0.7% of their gross national product in order to reduce the international poverty level at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000.

Even though the US and European Union have just promised significant increases over the next few years, their pledges would make up less than a quarter of what Mr Annan wants, UN officials said.

US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says he hopes to discuss Africa with Bono, lead singer with rock group U2 and an outspoken advocate of financial assistance for the world's poorest countries.

"I invited him to go on the upcoming trip that we are going to take to Africa and especially to go places that he has been that he believes would be useful to my own understanding," Mr O'Neill said.

The BBC's Nick Ravenscroft
"In recent years a pattern of giving has been established"
World Bank Director of Development Ian Goldin
"In terms of putting food in, America is way ahead"
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