Blair refuses call to convene G8 summit

Tony Blair rejected calls yesterday to convene an emergency summit of the richest nations to co-ordinate a response to the tsunami disaster.

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, called on Mr Blair to show leadership and call an emergency meeting to discuss aid when Britain takes over the presidency of the G8 group of nations tomorrow.

But Mr Blair made it clear in a conversation with the Italian premier that he believed the UN and not the G8 should co-ordinate the relief effort.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said he will contact the other G8 members about assistance that we might be able to give to the United Nations. But we are confident G8 members will agree it is right that the UN should continue to take the lead role in co-ordinating the relief effort."

Mr Blair's support for the UN is in marked contrast to President George Bush's announcement yesterday that a core group of donor countries - the US, India, Australia and Japan - would co-ordinate the effort. The US belatedly added the UN to that group last night.

Mr Blair faced fresh demands to cut short his holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and return to London to "direct operations".

Nigel Evans MP, the Conservative vice-chairman, said Mr Blair should fly home immediately. "It would be far better, frankly, for him to be directing the operation from back here. This is the biggest natural disaster in the world for 40 years. The death toll is now heading towards 140,000, including a number of British people," he said.

"I would have thought Mr Blair should be following what other world leaders are doing and coming back to direct operations."

Mr Blair and his family flew to Egypt on Boxing Day, within hours of the tsunami striking. He was informed of the disaster before he left Britain, sources said.

Downing Street defended Mr Blair's decision not to cut short his holiday and said he had been in regular telephone contact with senior ministers about the crisis. He has also spoken to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, and yesterday he met King Abdullah of Jordan.

"The Prime Minister is in regular contact with the Deputy Prime Minister, with Jack Straw and Hilary Benn, who are doing an excellent job," a Downing Street spokeswoman said. "The Government is working and the important thing is that work is going on to help the people facing this terrible crisis."

Mr Straw, the Foreign Secretary, also backed the Prime Minister's decision not to return and said he was "entitled to some rest".

Mr Berlusconi, one of Tony Blair's main European allies, had called on him to act swiftly to alleviate "the worst cataclysm of the modern era". He said Britain should convene the G8 meeting to "discuss the organisation of aid and the possible reduction of debt."

Yesterday, in an article in the Economist, Mr Blair highlighted the importance of Britain's presidency of the G8 in tackling world poverty.

TOP 10 DONORS (US$)

Britain 96.00

Sweden 80.00

France 56.18

EU 40.81

Spain 36.72

USA 35.00

Netherlands 34.00

Canada 33.00

Japan 30.00

Australia 27.00

Qatar 25.00

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor