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World: Bush Urges More Aid To Developing Countries

U.S. President George W. Bush is embarking on a week long trip to Europe today (Wednesday) that includes a summit of major industrial nations and Russia in Genoa, Italy. On the eve of his journey, Bush urged the World Bank and other international development institutions to step up their help to poor nations. Our correspondent Frank T. Csongos reports from Washington.

Washington, 18 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has called on international lending institutions to provide more money to poor nations instead of issuing loans they cannot pay back.

Bush made the proposal Tuesday (17 July) in a speech at World Bank headquarters in Washington. He said the funds should be used to improve the lives of people. In his speech, Bush said:

"I propose that the World Bank and other development banks dramatically increase their share of their funding provided as grants rather than loans to the poorest countries. Specifically, I propose that up to 50 percent of the funds provided by the development banks to the poorest countries be provided as grants for education, health, nutrition, water supply, sanitation, and other human needs."

The idea of converting World Bank loans to grants was among recommendations made recently by an independent U.S. panel. If it is put into practice, rich nations would have to increase their contributions to international lending institutions.

The World Bank now makes about $15 billion in loans annually.

Bush said that although many of the older loans are being forgiven, or being refinanced at lower interest rates, debt relief is really a short-term solution. He said the U.S. and other nations should work with developing countries to help fight illiteracy, disease, and unsustainable debt.

The American president is embarking on a week-long European trip today that includes a summit of the world's seven leading industrial democracies (G-7) and Russia in Genoa, Italy.

Bush said one of the most important objectives of his meeting with world leaders will be to secure their endorsement for a launch of global trade negotiations later this year. He said:

"To all nations tearing down the walls of suspicion and isolation and building ties of trade and trust, you are not alone. And to all nations who are willing to stake their future on the global progress of liberty, you will never be alone. This is my nation's pledge, a pledge I will keep."

Bush told the audience of international aid officials he would seek a new round of global trade talks. A previous attempt toward such a round ended in failure at a World Trade Organization meeting in the U.S. city of Seattle in December 1999 that was marred by violent demonstrations. Italian authorities said they are deploying 15,000 police in Genoa to protect the summit. Police raided four leftist groups after a bomb explosion that severely wounded a security officer.

Bush said those who are protesting globalization are no friends of the poor. He said:

"I respect the right to peaceful expression, but make no mistake -- those who protest free trade are no friends of the poor. Those who protest free trade seek to deny them their best hope for escaping poverty."

Bush said legitimate concerns about labor standards, the environment, economic dislocation, and other issues should be addressed when dealing with the issue of globalization. But he said that countries must reject protectionism that blocks the path of prosperity for poor nations.