Entente formidable! It's the Nicholas and Gordon show

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, today promised new support to provide school places for 16 million children in Africa.

The two leaders - addressing each other warmly by first names - announced their initiative at Arsenal's Emirates football stadium in north London, where they were holding the final press conference of Mr Sarkozy's state visit.

Mr Sarkozy said the aim was to provide the places in time for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"One of the great challenges in Africa is that 33 million children are not going to school this morning," he said. "There is no school for them to go to and no teachers to teach."

Speaking on the Arsenal pitch ahead of the press conference, Mr Brown said that the two governments would be providing the assistance to charities and other organisations to enable them to build new schools and provide the teachers for them.

"I believe we are making it possible for millions of people today to get opportunities they have never had before," he said.

Mr Brown said that the initiative was supported by the world football authority, Fifa, whose president, Sepp Blatter, was present for the meeting, as well as the English FA.

At the conference Mr Brown and President Sarkozy called for greater international co-operation to prevent a repeat of the credit crunch.

The Prime Minister said they had agreed a "co-ordinated approach" was needed to improve transparency and stability.

He told a joint press conference in north London: "We will press for a co-ordinated approach in the international financial community for disclosing and dealing with the problems that now exist in write-offs and off-balance sheet behaviour."

And the president, who has been saying that he wanted the entente cordiale to progress to the entent amicale, underlined the relaxed nature of the conference with thoughts of an entente formidable.

Mr Brown said the two men had discussed nuclear proliferation, including ideas for helping states achieve civil nuclear capability in return for their agreeing not to develop nuclear weapons.

They also talked about human rights issues around the world, including Tibet and China.

President Sarkozy insisted he "reserved the right" to boycott the Olympic Games' opening ceremony in Beijing - by which time France will hold the EU presidency.

However, he stressed he would spend the next months trying to "pacify" the situation, and said he recognised that Britain was in a different position because it was due to host the Games in 2012.

"I reserve the right to say whether or not I will attend the opening ceremony," he added.

Mr Brown flatly ruled out a UK boycott, saying: "We will not be boycotting the Olympic Games. Britain will be attending the Olympic Games ceremony."

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