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Saturday, February 05, 2005

US-European relations: update

Condi Rice is on her first business trip as Secretary of State. One mission: to repair US-European relations, battered by the Iraq war, the Kyoto Protocol, and American unilateralism pre-dating 9/11 and the Bush Presidency. This is from the AP wire story:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday that European allies have told her they're ready to move on from the sometimes rocky relations brought on by the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Of course, Rice made this claim in Warsaw (Poland), not Paris, Berlin or Brussels.
Following a meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld, Rice told reporters, "I think what we're hearing from Europe is a desire to move on to the next chapter in this great alliance."

...Earlier in her first trip as the United States' senior diplomat, Rice thanked Britain, America's staunchest ally in the Iraq war and pledged a "new chapter" in relations with Germany, which opposed the war but now wants to support democracy in Iraq.
Then again, what book is she referencing? In Robert Ludlam bestsellers, virtually every chapter until the conclusion ends with a harrowing cliff-hanger.

Indeed, the latest post-tsunami chapter of US-European relations seems to feature ongoing political differences. This time, even the British are "against us," and even Nelson Mandela cannot bring the parties together. These passages are from the AFP wire:
A US-Europe rift threatened to torpedo a British-led initiative to tackle global poverty as finance ministers from the Group of Seven rich nations began formally meeting here....

Ministers met at the home of British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown early Saturday after failing to reach common ground on development aid during a working dinner the previous night and as their deputies took up the baton into early Saturday, European officials said.

Ministers had Friday met with Mandela who urged them to back a doubling in annual development assistance to 100 billion dollars and to approve 100 percent debt cancellation for Africa.

"I urge you to act tonight, do not delay when poor people continue to suffer," Mandela said.

But in subsequent talks, according to German secretary of state for finance Caio Koch-Weser, "the Americans (were) in a completely different frame of mind from the Europeans."

Under discussion was an ambitious scheme proposed by Britain that would fund a package of financial assistance of up to 100 billion dollars a year and provide debt relief and trade benefits.

US Undersecretary of the Treasury John Taylor said here Friday that the plan "doesn't work" for the United States.
British International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said that a solution would be found, with or without the US.
"You don't need everybody on board to launch the IFF," [International Finance Facility] Benn told the BBC.

"One way or the other, what is inconceivable is that the world will come to Gleneagles ... without having found ways of raising the additional money that we know is needed to save children's lives and to give developing countries the helping hand they need as they help themselves out of poverty," he said.
If the G7 fails, France and Germany are expected to announce their own development initiative.

This is a big deal for Tony Blair, who has called often and quite publicly for cancellation of debt, various trade incentives and greater financial aid for the poorest countries around the world, especially African nations.

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