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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 04:52 GMT
Blair warns Africa: 'No pain, no gain'
Tony Blair and Senegal's President Wade
Tony Blair held talks with Senegal's President Wade
Tony Blair has told the developed world there can be no "gain" without "pain" in its relationship with Africa.

The Prime Minister said wealthy countries must be prepared to accept difficulties ahead if they want to see the continent become prosperous.

Speaking in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, on the last leg of his tour of west Africa, the prime minister said the continent had "huge challenges" ahead.

Earlier, Mr Blair was in Sierra Leone, where he paid tribute to the British troops stationed there to help secure the country's future after 11 years of conflict.

The four-day trip, which ends on Sunday, is aimed at fostering a new partnership between Africa and the West and driving economic growth in the world's poorest continent.

No military coup

Mr Blair was welcomed at Dakar airport by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and prime minister Mame Madior Boye, along with several other members of the government.

The only way we can meet the pain and deal with it is if we deal with it together

Tony Blair

Mr Blair, the first British prime minister to visit the country, took part in a seminar looking at how to replicate the stability and economic success of the only country in the region to have avoided a military coup.

After the meeting Mr Blair told reporters it would not be easy for the west to increase its investment in Africa and open up markets.

He added: "It's not easy for African countries to face huge challenges. There's pain on both sides, but the only way we can meet the pain and deal with it is if we deal with it together.

"The only way to deal with this is if there's pain all round so that there can be gain all round."

In Sierra Leone, the prime minister met Gurkhas near the capital Freetown and told them they had given the country "a chance to get back on its feet again".

British soldier talks to villager in Sierra Leone
British troops helped stabilise Sierra Leone
He said: "I'd like to express my thanks to the British forces and the forces from the many other countries that are here in Sierra Leone.

"This is a country of four and a half million people who faced the prospect of being taken over and run by a group of gangsters who were killing many of the people and plundering the country."

He said Britain's controversial decision to commit troops to the country in 2000, to advise government forces and provide support for United Nations peacekeepers had been a success.

The war, which cost 50,000 lives in one of the world's poorest countries, was declared over last month and elections are due in May.

Mr Blair, whose father Leo taught at the university in Freetown, said: "Now for the first time the country has a chance to get back on its feet again."

'Building blocks'

Meeting tribal leaders he said Britain would stand by Sierra Leone, adding: "We want to be your partners, making sure the process of government, of conserving the legal systems, the proper building blocks of any decent civil society, are put in place and allowed to grow.

"This is a country potentially of vast wealth."

Mr Blair also held talks with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson, who is travelling with the prime minister's tour, said the stop meant a great deal personally to Mr Blair.

His decision to send British troops in was widely criticised at the time but, Robinson says, the prime minister believes he has been vindicated by events since.

The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Partnership has been the theme of this trip"
Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram
"I think he has been in the wrong part of Africa at the wrong time"
See also:

09 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair praises Sierra Leone troops
08 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair targets African dictators
08 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair receives tribal welcome
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Perils of a globetrotting PM
07 Feb 02 | UK Politics
In Africa with Blair
07 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair begins African tour
07 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair's African contrasts
09 Feb 02 | Africa
Britain's future in Sierra Leone
09 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair gets African message
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