UK blocks Brussels on aid

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The Independent Online
Brussels - Britain has blocked a European Union aid initiative, plunging a meeting yesterday with developing countries into chaos, writes Andrew Marshall.

As Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said on Wednesday, Britain is resisting increases in aid given through the EU. The result may be to leave some of the world's poorest countries, many in Africa, facing reduced incomes.

EU ministers failed to agree amongst themselves on a new aid package for 70 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states late on Wednesday night. They met briefly their counterparts from those countries yesterday, but France said there was little point in continuing. Progress depends on another meeting, with the agreement set for the end of this month.

"We must continue to try to find a solution," said Alain Jupp , the French foreign minister, who chaired the meeting. "The EU is determined to get a good result," said Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the Commissioner for ACP countries. "Any reduction is totally unacceptable," said Themba Masuku, president of the ACP group and finance minister of Swaziland.

The failure to agree on the next round of the European Development Fund, the eighth such package, was expected, with several of the biggest states expressing unhappiness. Britain insists that it is not objecting to an increase principle, but that it wants its contribution reduced.

Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy provided about 60 per cent of the last fund. But each is baulking at a substantial increase.