G-8 Ends With Pact To Fight Diseases

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 8, 2007

ROME, June 8 -- President Bush arrived here Friday night after concluding a summit where leaders of the world's wealthiest industrialized countries pledged $60 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in impoverished nations around the world.

Leaders of the Group of Eight nations hailed the agreement reached on the closing day of their three-day meeting in Heiligendamm, Germany, as a reaffirmation and expansion of their pledge two years ago to increase developmental aid to Africa.

Health-care advocates had a mixed reaction to Friday's pledge, half of which would be covered by the United States. Some called it important progress, while others denounced it as inadequate and vague. The G-8 nations have not fulfilled their previous promises to dramatically increase aid to Africa, critics said. Also, the group's latest declaration contained no clear timeline for providing the promised money.

The document "isn't readable in any language. It's called a communique, but it seems to have been deliberately designed not to communicate the real facts," said U2 singer Bono, a leading proponent of global poverty relief. "Do they think we can't read or count? We are looking for accountable language and accountable numbers. We didn't get them today."

Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, added that even if the money is forthcoming, it is not nearly enough to address preventable diseases that his group estimates kill 16,000 people a day. "The funding falls far short of what is needed," he said. "In addition, their promise to provide this money 'over the coming years' is outrageously vague."

Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said he was pleased with the announcement. "The endorsement by the G-8 leaders of $6 to $8 billion per year for the Global Fund, a threefold increase from the current level as part of their recommitment to universal access to treatment, is very good news," he said.

Last week, Bush called on Congress to double the original $15 billion U.S. commitment to the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief over the next five years. He had expressed hope that the U.S. plans would spur his G-8 partners toward similar pledges.

Bush's day started slowly Friday, because he was hit by an apparent virus, White House officials said. After meeting with new French President Nicholas Sarkozy, he went back to bed and missed two morning sessions at the summit. But by midday, a slightly ruddy-looking Bush was back on his schedule and attended a working lunch of G-8 leaders.

"He's not 100 percent, but he felt well enough to return to the talks," said White House counselor Dan Bartlett.

Later in the day, Bush left Germany for Poland, where he met President Lech Kaczynski. The two discussed U.S. plans to base interceptors for a missile defense system in Poland.

After condemning the system as a threat to Russia, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday proposed that his country become a partner in it by feeding radar data from a station it operates in the Caspian Sea country of Azerbaijan.

"The system we have proposed is not directed at Russia," Bush said after talks with Kaczynski, according to the Associated Press. "Indeed, we would welcome Russian cooperation on missile defense."

Bartlett said a response to Putin's offer might take some time, as it involves some complicated technical -- and geopolitical -- analyses. "There are a lot of very complicated technical aspects, not only in the proposal we have put forward but also this idea that President Putin has offered," Bartlett said.

Putin and Bush are scheduled to meet again in early July at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

From Poland, Bush flew to Rome, where he is scheduled to meet Saturday with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. Also on the schedule is his first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, at the Vatican.

Earlier Friday, a court in the northern Italian city of Milan opened the trial of 26 Americans who Italian prosecutors say are CIA operatives who kidnapped an Egyptian cleric in 2003 in Milan and sent him to Egypt. None of the Americans has come to Italy for the trial, which has become a point of friction between the U.S. and Italian governments.

After ruling on several motions, the judge postponed the trial until June 18 so he could consider a defense request to suspend the proceedings until Italy's Constitutional Court rules on matters related to the case later this year, AP reported. The Italian government has asked the country's highest court to throw out the indictments against the Americans.

Bush is scheduled to travel to Albania and Bulgaria on Sunday, before returning to Washington by Monday evening.

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