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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 14:22 GMT
Blair seeks support for Africa
Tony Blair and Senegal's President Wade
Blair wants a new partnership between Africa and the West
Nick Assinder

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has launched another passionate defence of his Africa globe-trotting dash and called for a major public campaign on the issue of tackling the continent's poverty.


There is a lesson being learned by the international community which is that we cannot ignore these conflicts because sooner or later they end up on your doorstep

Tony Blair
Critics of Mr Blair have accused him of playing the international statesmen and neglecting problems at home.

Speaking in the Senegal capital Dakar at the end of his African tour, he said he wanted a campaign similar to the Jubilee 2000 one on world debt relief.

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.

Lessons learned

Mr Blair pointed out that he and other Western leaders could achieve much with only a limited amount of time devoted to the issue.

"If you look at the amount of time I will spend dealing with the nitty-gritty of issues such as schools and hospitals, this is a very small amount of time that we give to the position of Africa - and yet even that can make a difference," he said.

British soldier talks to villager in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone: Blair says Western support can prevent conflict
"There is a lesson being learned by the international community which is that we cannot ignore these conflicts because sooner or later they end up on your doorstep."

He also called on people to put pressure on other Western leaders to step up their action on tackling the continent's problems.

His remarks were seen as a gentle call on US President George Bush to strengthen his role in the new partnership of Western leaders and African states which is attempting to get to grips with the continent's poverty, conflicts and health and education problems.

But, conscious of the criticisms at home, the prime minister also revealed plans for a new education initiative to be launched next week in a government green paper.

'No pain without gain'

Earlier on his tour of Senegal, Mr Blair told the developed world there can be no "gain" without "pain" in its relationship with Africa.

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.

Vindication

However, shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said the trip could only be justified if Mr Blair's presence was needed to address particular issues.

"I have to say soundbites like 'no pain, no gain' don't fill me with a lot of optimism that he has dealt with the real problems," he told Sky News.

"The bold and brave thing to have done would have been to go to South Africa and Botswana and to talk about the actual pressures that can be brought to bear to ensure there are free and fair elections for the presidency in Zimbabwe."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Partnership has been the theme of this trip"
Tony Blair
talks to the BBC's Nick Robinson about action needed to be taken after his trip to Africa
Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram
"I think he has been in the wrong part of Africa at the wrong time"
See also:

10 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Sierra Leone opens its arms to Blair
09 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair praises Sierra Leone troops
08 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair targets African dictators
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
09 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair gets African message
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