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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK

UK Politics

Short announces aid packages

Clare Short: A series of announcements is expected

International Development Secretary Clare Short has announced a package of measures to tackle debt, disease and illiteracy in some of the world's poorest countries.

Ms Short told delegates at the Labour conference in Bournemouth that the government will contribute £31m to debt relief to some of the world's poorest countries and £14m towards finding an Aids vaccine.

A further £20m over two years would be spent eradicating polio in Africa, and £33m would go towards supporting primary education in West Bengal, one of India's poorest states.

Ms Short told delegates the eradication of poverty was the "biggest moral challenge facing the world".

The Labour Party could be proud of the government's dedication to achieving that aim, she continued.

"This is a government committed to sharing the wealth of globalisation equitably and sustainably."

Ms Short urged the party to develop a "radical set of proposals for international development" with which to go into the next general election.

She welcomed the "good news today that President Clinton has come behind" the debt relief package brokered by Chancellor Gordon Brown at the weekend.

Earlier, the minister had told the BBC there was a "lot of spin" in the announcement, as it meant the US would increase the percentage of debt relief from 90% to 100%.

In her speech to conference, she emphasised the UK's role in achieving debt relief.

Ms Short said: "As a result of what was achieved in Washington, there will be faster, deeper and poverty focused debt relief for the poorest countries.

"And I can say, in all humility, that it would not have been agreed without the UK effort."

Hawk sales 'insignificant'

[ image: Ms Short likened the Hawk jets to 'darts']
Ms Short likened the Hawk jets to 'darts'
Earlier, Ms Short said the sales of Hawk jets to Indonesia was insignificant to the help given to the people of East Timor by the government.

The government has been condemned for continuing with the sale of the British Aerospace jets to Indonesia, begun by the Tory government, until they were halted earlier this month.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has admitted they were used over East Timor by the Indonesian military in the weeks before the UN Force moved in, in contravention of the export licence.

Ms Short said that in comparison to the UK's efforts to help foster democracy, fighter jets were "darts".

East Timor
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "People will take a different view on whether the darts sold by the Tories should have been upheld or not but it's a pinprick in the face of all of that."

Ms Short said that poverty was the "biggest moral issue" facing the world on a global level, but because it was not a domestic political issue it was not discussed.

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