Brown urges US to join new 'Marshall Plan'

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Gordon Brown will say today that the world's richest nations are facing "decision week" on aid for Africa and climate change, the twin priorities for Britain's G8 conference.

Gordon Brown will say today that the world's richest nations are facing "decision week" on aid for Africa and climate change, the twin priorities for Britain's G8 conference.

Mr Brown will say that the "week of vital decisions" will begin today with Tony Blair flying to Washington for talks at the White House to persuade George Bush to agree to a package of increased aid to Africa.

President Bush said on Friday that a substantial increase in US spending on aid was "not in our budgetary plans" but Mr Brown insisted that the Americans were "on board" for a "new Marshall Plan" for Africa.

Mr Blair and MrBrown want to secure agreement on the package - including a doubling of international aid - at next month's G8 summit.

Despite US reservations, Downing Street indicated Mr Blair was optimistic about the prospects for his talks with Mr Bush.

"We believe there is a strong sense in the G8 for action on Africa," a No 10 spokeswoman said. "We believe we are making progress and are confident of fulfilling our ambitions but we still have some way to go and would not have expected to have achieved our agenda at this stage."

The Chancellor, meanwhile, will tell a union conference that Eurostat, the European statistical body, will give the green light to the International Financing Facility (IFF) for funding vaccination and immunisation.

He has won approval for a pilot scheme with the Gates Foundation, which he claims would frontload $4bn (£2bn) of investment in vaccination and could save five million young lives between now and 2015. Eurostat will say later this week the funds will not have to count as public sector borrowing, which could have threatened EU rules and wrecked the scheme.

The IFF has been resisted by the Bush administration. The European countries intend to go ahead with the scheme without the US if necessary.

Mr Brown said on GMTV yesterday: "I think it will work because we will have the Americans on board.

"I think the Americans are now ready to discuss an agreement on debt relief." It is thought the US is ready to agree to a package that will wipe out $15bn in debt interest for the poorest countries. "This is a crucial week," Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown appealed to the world's oil-producing states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, to use some of their wealth from rising oil prices to contribute to the aid to Africa.

He wants the oil revenues to plug an estimated $20bn shortfall between the $80bn so far committed to the world's poorest countries by 2010 and the $100bn UN target. The US has estimated Opec's oil revenues will increase by more than $100bn from two years ago, as a result of the price rise.

Mr Blair has a packed timetable in the US , which will include talks with Mr Bush tomorrow and on Wednesday. The Prime Minister is seeking a breakthrough with President Bush on revised plans for tackling climate change, dubbed "Kyoto Lite".

Ticket text competition starts at 8am today

The competition to attend the free Live8 concert in Hyde Park - the largest-ever lottery to pick a rock audience - opens this morning at 8am.

Anyone with a mobile phone registered in the UK can try to win a pair of the 72,500 tickets. Organisers of the concert on 2 July, which will feature Coldplay, U2, Robbie Williams and Sir Paul McCartney, have advertised the competition on television, radio and national newspapers, including The Independent.

To enter you have pick one of three possible answers to the question: "Which city is nearest to the G8 summit in July?" The answers are either A) Berlin, B) Moscow and C) Edinburgh. To enter text A, B or C to 84599.

Texts sent before 8am will be invalid and the lines will remain open until midnight on 12 June, when winners will be picked at random and notified by text.

Each text message will cost £1.50. The first £1.6m raised will be donated to The Prince's Trust to compensate it for the cancelled annual Party in the Park concert. The rest will help fund the Live8 concert.

Thair Shaikh

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