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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 13:04 GMT
UN chief hails new French air tax
Kofi Annan & Jacques Chirac
Kofi Annan is a big fan of Jacques Chirac's much-ridiculed tax
United Nations chief Kofi Annan has shown his support for French plans for a new tax on airline tickets to boost aid for the world's poor.

At the start of a conference in Paris, Mr Annan urged other countries to follow France's example.

The tax, due to come into force in France in July, would range from one to 40 euros depending on the distance travelled and class of ticket bought.

It is expected to raise up to 210m euros ($248m; 144m) a year.

"President Jacques Chirac has shown real leadership in efforts to find innovative sources of financing to help the world achieve the Millennium Development Goals," Mr Annan said at the conference, which was called to discuss the tax.

France is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with more than 100 million air passengers passing through its airports each year.

Mixed response

Jacques Chirac first raised the idea during the Word Economic Forum in Switzerland in January last year.

Ministers, envoys and campaign groups from nearly one hundred countries are now taking part in the Paris conference, and about 10 are expected to adopt the tax.

Passenger jets
The French plan would boost foreign aid with a tax on air passengers

So far, only Chile has taken steps to implement the tax, which is opposed by the US and the airline industry.

However, the UK government has agreed to divert revenues from its existing Air Passenger Duty.

But the US has made it clear that it does not support the idea, and it is not clear how many other governments will follow Mr Chirac's vision.

Airlines are concerned at the idea of a new air passenger tax at a time when many of them are already having to levy extra fuel surcharges on tickets because of high oil prices.

Initially, the money will go to combating Aids in Africa, by helping pay for the cost of expensive anti-retroviral drugs.

"I urge other countries to join an international drug purchase facility mooted by France and Brazil to boost drugs access for Aids and HIV sufferers," Mr Annan told the conference.

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