Prime Minister Blair Visits Bush at the White House

British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits Washington Tuesday to meet with President Bush. The two leaders are united in their commitment to Iraq, but their relationship may be strained over Blair's proposals to fight global warming and increased aid to Africa.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, a foreign news fest: prospects for political change in a place where the Bush administration is really pushing for it--Syria. And the Venezuelans are pushing back on US pressure there.

First, the lead, which is sort of foreign. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in Washington today, where he and President Bush are expected to announce increased aid to Africa. Earlier this year, a British commission on Africa issued a 400-page report with recommendations for progress, and Mr. Blair stressed the importance of the undertaking.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Great Britain): There can be no excuse, no defense, no justification for the plight of millions of our fellow human beings in Africa today. And there should be nothing that stands in our way in changing it.

CHADWICK: British Prime Minister Blair speaking when that report was released. He and President Bush's initiative is expected to cost this country an estimated $674 million, and that's less than Tony Blair wanted. The two are also expected to discuss global warming. Joining us from Washington is NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

Don, welcome back to the show. And what does Tony Blair want from President Bush on Africa?

DON GONYEA reporting:

Well, simply put, he wants more money. Tony Blair has really made dealing with the pervasive poverty across the African continent a major policy item for him. He sees dealing with this issue as really an important part of his legacy as prime minister. So he's pushing the US to do more. The problem, though, is that the Bush administration essentially says it is already doing more, that this fiscal year alone the US is going to contribute nearly $1.4 billion in aid to Africa. That's separate from that 674 million number you announced earlier. And the president's spokesman says that that number is going to continue to grow, and that the US, he reminds us, has already greatly increased its funding and its commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa. Still, Prime Minister Blair is really talking about dramatically increasing the amount that is raised globally for Africa. He wants up to $50 billion a year. Again, that's from all countries. But the US is really simply not prepared to sign on to that plan.

CHADWICK: Isn't the administration saying it's concerned the money will never get to the people who really need it?

GONYEA: Yes. The British have talked about setting up a new Marshall Plan reminiscent of the post-World War II plan in which billions were contributed to rebuild Europe and help it get back on its feet. Well, Britain would like to set up a similar fund for Africa. They call it the international finance facility. It would be used for economic development, but also for fighting disease and other health matters, and for education and for infrastructure. The US concern is that to set up a big entity to disburse such funds is just not the best way to do it. It worries, again as you said, about the money getting to the right places. Additionally, the Bush administration has said it would like to tie funding in any given country to progress made toward reforms, Democratic reforms and other sorts of progress made.

And as to setting up this giant fund, the president said bluntly last week that it just doesn't fit our budgetary process. Those are his words.

CHADWICK: Well, still, Britain's in good shape to set the agenda somewhat because it's got the yearlong chairmanship of the G8 group, the leading industrialized nations meeting later this summer. And they're going to be talking then about something else where these two have a split: global warming.

GONYEA: That's right. Remember, even before the differences between the US and much of Europe over Iraq, there were protests across the European continent over Bush administration environmental policies, specifically the decision to walk away from the Kyoto Treaty on global warming. There continues to be criticism that the administration is not doing nearly enough, that it walked away from Kyoto but hasn't come forth with anything significant. Tony Blair will be pressuring the president in this meeting here and at the G8 to really seriously rejoin in the global effort to address the problem of climate change.

CHADWICK: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: My pleasure.

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