Bush gives cool reception to British plans for Africa aid

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President George Bush is giving a cool reception to British proposals to increase aid for Africa ­ a top priority for Prime Minister Tony Blair before next week's meeting between the two leaders.

Mr Blair, a close ally of the United States over the invasion of Iraq, was expected to ask Bush to support his Africa proposal when they meet at the White House ahead of July's G8 summit in Scotland.

But so far there is no sign of support from President Bush for increasing aid to Africa, and the US essentially believes it is doing enough. A spokesman for the White House said: "We've tripled assistance to Africa since 2001. The US has been leading the way when it comes to aid and development assistance to Africa.

President Bush said: "We have made our position clear that it doesn't fit our budgetary process."

The leading Conservative spokesman on international aid has given his party's total support to Tony Blair's mission to the White House next week to persuade President Bush to join in the campaign to cut debt in Africa at the forthcoming G8 summit.

Andrew Mitchell, who was appointed in the post-election reshuffle by Michael Howard, urged Mr Blair last night to use the political capital he has in the White House because of his support for the Americans in the war on Iraq to gain the support of President Bush for the European initiative on Africa.

"We want Tony Blair to draw down political capital to get the Americans to the table, and if he is successful no one will be more pleased than us," said Mr Mitchell.

"This is an exciting moment where idealism should not give way to cynicism. This is a chance for this generation to make a real difference and we must not lose it. It is much too important for party politics. That is why we give our strong support to the Labour Government. We are right behind them and we want them to succeed."

He added: "He has got to harness the White House. He should say this is a seminal moment, the key moment ­ are you going to come to the table and make this happen or not?"

Mr Mitchell, a director of Lazards, the merchant bank, who keeps a talking doll of President Bush on his desk at the Commons, said the White House was wrong in claiming that Gordon Brown's international finance facility (IFF) was a piece of financial engineering that would not work.

"I think it is a very clever idea, speaking as a banker," said Mr Mitchell. "There are dangers with it. It could mean that aid could be front-end loaded so that you get it all in the early years and don't get it later on. The Government does believe it works, and so do I."

Mr Brown will today reinforce his determination to press ahead with the IFF in spite of the American objections. Mr Blair and Mr Brown will go ahead with the plan with the European nations who are signed up to it without the US.