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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 02:55 GMT 03:55 UK
G8 summit ends with show of unity
The G8 leaders stand shoulder to shoulder

The leaders of the G8 have ended their conference with plans to promote democracy in the Middle East and relieve the debt burden in Africa.

The host, US President George W Bush, said there was momentum for change in the Middle East and a consensus was emerging on the need for reform.

The leading industrial nations will extend a debt relief scheme for the world's poorest countries by two years.

The G8 also promised to train tens of thousands of peacekeepers for Africa.

The BBC's Jill McGivering in Georgia says that this meeting of the leaders of the world's main industrial nations was a feel good summit.

Extend for another two years debt-relief program for the world's poorest nations
Pursue agreement for substantial relief of Iraq's $120bn in foreign debt
Back US proposal to accelerate development of HIV vaccine
The Middle East Quartet to meet before the end of the month
End-of-July target for an outline deal on global trade talks
Measures to halt transfers of nuclear technology
Endorse airline security improvements
However, agreeing the Middle East plan took a lot of American concessions including an emphasis on reforms coming from within the region's nations, not being imposed from outside.

And there were signs of division over Iraq, with French President Jacques Chirac rejecting President Bush's suggestions of an expanded role for Nato.

At the summit closed, Mr Bush admitted that his proposal for Nato to send troops to Iraq had been "unrealistic".

"I don't expect more troops from Nato to be offered up," he said.

But he added that he had found what he called the "common spirit" to help Iraq "very encouraging".

Poverty trap

Earlier the G8 leaders pledged to extend the debt relief programme known as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative for another two years until the end of 2006.

Africans respond to G8 promises to do more for the continent

Twenty-three of the 27 countries that have qualified for debt relief under the HIPC are in Africa.

Originally conceived as a way to relieve $100bn of debt for countries that have sound government, the plan has in fact only cancelled $31bn so far. Africa remains the only part of the developing world no better off than it was 25 years ago.

But African leaders were disappointed in their call for the complete elimination of debts owed by the world's poorest countries to the International Monetary Fund.

"The issue is not handouts... it is of mutual interest, mutual security," said Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo.

Even more hot air and empty words than usual
J F M, London

"We made the point that proposal or the idea of a 100% cancellation of debt will help Africa."

With five other African leaders - from Algeria, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda - he met the G8 to discuss a plan to train 75,000 peacekeepers for Africa, and a programme to co-ordinate research to find a vaccine for HIV/Aids.

The G8 also discussed Sudan and said it looked to the United Nations to lead the international effort to avert "a major disaster" in Darfur - described as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

"There are continuing reports of gross violations of human rights, many with an ethnic dimension," the statement said.

"We call on all parties to the conflict to immediately and fully respect the ceasefire, allow unimpeded humanitarian access to all those in need, and create the conditions for the displaced to return safely to their homes."

The BBC's James Robbins
"Much of the tension between the leaders has eased"


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