Tony Blair is coming to the White House this week to push his friend George W. Bush into increasing aid to Africa ahead of the G8 summit of world leaders in Scotland next month. Blair's vision for Africa is as bold as Bush's for the Mideast--to lift the world's poorest nations out of poverty. He's not alone: last week some of the globe's biggest (and oldest) pop stars said they would revive the Live Aid concert for Africa of 20 years ago (renamed Live 8) to turn the heat up on G8 leaders.
But Bush sounded dismissive about Blair's proposals, which include doubling aid and a provision to allow governments to borrow against the promise of future aid. "We have made our position pretty clear on that," Bush said in the Oval Office, with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa sitting beside him. "It doesn't fit our budgetary process."
The White House says Bush was not dismissing Blair's vision: according to one senior adviser (who declined to be named because the proposals are still under intense private negotiations with the British), he meant that the financing idea was not allowed under U.S. law because it commits money beyond Bush's time in office. Instead, the Bushies are focusing on debt relief, especially canceling debts to the World Bank and funds like the IMF. One big concession: the White House is ready to replenish the reserves of the World Bank, allowing billions of dollars of debt to be written off. That may still disappoint British officials who were hoping for an extra $3 billion in U.S. aid.