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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 12:54 GMT
Blair hails new era for Africa
Tony Blair inspects an honor guard in Abuja, Nigeria
Mr Blair has been greeted with full ceromonial honours
Nick Assinder

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has hailed a new era of partnership between African nations and the West.

Speaking after a two hour meeting with Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo, Mr Blair paid tribute to a new generation of African leaders who were committed to reforming the troubled continent.


Some of these criticisms are born out of ignorance

President Obasanjo
Mr Blair also defended the need for a British prime minister to travel abroad, following criticism at home of his so-called "designer diplomacy".

His words were backed by President Obasanjo, who recently faced a parliamentary motion saying he should concentrate more on domestic issues and less on travel.

"Some of these criticisms are born out of ignorance," President Obasanjo told reporters.

Zimbabwe

Mr Blair said the meeting with President Obasanjo fulfilled a promise he had made more than two years ago.


It is not only the right thing to do but it is in our interest

Tony Blair
The centrepiece of the talks was a new partnership for African development, he said.

And he repeated his claim that this represented the best chance in a generation to make the partnership work.

'New generation'

The partnership would focus in investment, health and conflict resolution, he said, aiming towards the next G8 summit later this year.

There was a "a new generation of leaders in Africa, who see it as their responsibility to make sure it happens", Mr Blair told reporters.

"Increasingly we recognise in this world that that we are interdependent.

"So it is not only the right thing to do but it is in our interest," he added.

He said there was a "new urgency" and a "new momentum" to the process of reform in the continent.

Ethnic violence

Mr Blair is to address the Nigerian parliament later on Thursday.

His visit is the first by a British leader to Nigeria since 1988. He is also to visit Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

But his arrival has been met with scepticism by ordinary Nigerians, many of whom would like to see Mr Blair's words backed by action on debt relief.

The visit has also been overshadowed by ethnic violence in Lagos, which has left 100 people dead.

Tony Blair is visiting four West African states
Tony Blair is visiting four West African states

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"The theme throughout this tour is one of partnership"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Tony Blair has always wanted to do something for Africa"
Nigerian presidential spokesman Tunji Oseni
"Britain has a role to play in investment"
David Malcolmson, NEPAD
says this will need to be a long-term project
See also:

07 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair begins African tour
07 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair's African contrasts
07 Feb 02 | Africa
Low-key reception for Blair
06 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair back to world stage
05 Feb 02 | Business
Blair mulls Africa's economy
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Perils of a globetrotting PM
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair flies home to frosty welcome
06 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair handles diplomacy hazards
08 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Make or break on transport
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