Britain urges Bush to adopt greener agenda

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Britain is launching a top-level bid to persuade President Bush to set out to "win the peace" against terrorism by promoting environmentally friendly development in the Third World.

Tony Blair and John Prescott hope to use some of the Government's credit in Washington to persuade the US administration towards "greater international involvement".

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister believe there are already signs that George Bush is moving in this direction: late last week he took development experts by surprise by announcing a $5bn (£3.5bn) aid increase to fight Third World poverty.

Earlier in the week, Mr Prescott urged the new approach on Vice-President Dick Cheney when he came to London. Both British politicians are hoping to persuade Mr Bush to attend a crucial summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg this autumn.

On Friday, in a speech in Vancouver, Mr Prescott said: "There is growing agreement that we must work together to fight both terrorism and the causes of terrorism – and in that I include poverty and despair as well as religious and political divisions."

Until a few weeks ago, the Bush administration rejected any link between poverty and terrorism. But senior Whitehall sources see the new aid increase as the first sign that the US government is beginning to change its mind.

The President's announcement is the most important move by any US administration in years to improve its notoriously poor record on aid. It came at the same time as an agreement by EU leaders at the Barcelona summit that they would increase their aid by $5bn a year by 2006.

Development experts point out that the increases, though big, fall far short of what is needed to eradicate Third World poverty. But they have transformed a previously gloomy atmosphere and represent a partial victory for the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who has been pushing for rich countries to double aid.

Mr Prescott also says that the US has moved a long way over tackling climate change after trying to kill the Kyoto treaty a year ago. He points out that the Bush administration now accepts that global warming is taking place and has set its own, voluntary targets for reducing the pollution that causes it.

Mr Prescott said yesterday: "Naturally we wish the United States had gone further. But at least they are on board and going in the same direction, even though at a slower speed."