Africa crashes rich nations’ party

by Stephen Collinson
Mail and Guardian Online
June 10, 2004
Sea Island, Georgia: Group of Eight (G8) leaders on Thursday issued a day pass for their rich nations club to counterparts from Africa, on the last day of an annual summit clouded by new transatlantic squabbles.

Often criticised as paying little more than lip service to poverty, trade woes and HIV/Aids in Africa, G8 giants were to lunch with leaders of Algeria, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.

But South African President Thabo Mbeki lamented that his continent seemed to have been included for the fifth year in a row at the G8, as an afterthought.

“We will still be poor relations crashing the party,” he wrote in an article in the ThisDay newspaper.

The summit of G8 industrialised nations has been billed as a chance to consign to history old animosity over the United States invasion of Iraq, after the West closed ranks to pass a new United Nations resolution on Iraq on Tuesday.

But new diplomatic brushfires broke out almost immediately among the plush cottages of the top-scale Sea Island resort, even as US President George Bush led Iraq’s new interim ruler on to the world stage.

Leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US did manage to agree on Bush’s controversial reform plan for the Islamic world.

They also endorsed an end-of-July target for an outline deal on the most divisive issues in global trade talks, unveiled measures to halt transfers of nuclear technology and endorsed airline security improvements.

Bush and other leaders were due to hold press conferences on Thursday afternoon, before the US leader flies to Washington to pay his final respects to late former president Ronald Reagan, lying in state in the US capitol.

Interim Iraqi president Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar’s first international bow on Wednesday at the swank private beach resort hosting the rich-nations summit was a world removed from the violence of post-war Iraq.

But just one day after France signed up to a US-sponsored resolution at the UN on Iraqi sovereignty, the fractious allies were at loggerheads again – on a handful of issues.

They clashed on Nato’s role in Iraq, after Bush called for a greater presence of the Western alliance in the occupation.

Bush called for an expanded role for Nato in the occupation, but French President Jacques Chirac, a fierce critic of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, threw up an immediate roadblock.

“I do not think that it is Nato’s job to intervene in Iraq,” Chirac said.

Chirac also had pointed criticism for Bush’s economic policies, warning yawning US trade and budget deficits could dampen world economic prospects.

US-France spats overshadowed a display of unity put on by smiling leaders, zipping to talks at a plush East Coast resort in hi-tech golf buggies.

Discord also surfaced over the issue of Iraq’s mountainous debt, with European states resisting US calls quickly to forgive almost all of it.

The US is pushing for up to 90% to be cancelled but countries such as France, Russia and Canada are unwilling to go so far.

Bush managed to win an endorsement from leaders for his plans for a social, political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa, despite significant scepticism in Europe and the Arab world.

“Our support for reform in the region will go hand in hand with our support for a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” G8 officials said in a joint statement.

Critics had claimed the plan was a smokescreen for a lack of US involvement in Israel-Palestinian peacemaking.

As well as Mbeki, African leaders arriving at the G8 meeting on Thursday included Ebdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, John Kufuor of Ghana, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

Categories: Africa, Odious Debts

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s