Letter: Chance Blair has to seize

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The Independent Online
Letter: Chance Blair has to seize

Sir: In Lichfield Cathedral recently, I received, alongside other West Midlands church leaders, over 15,000 petitions to the Government to support measures for sustainable debt relief for the world's poorest countries. When Mr Blair welcomes his fellow world leaders to the G8 summit, in Birmingham on 15-17 May, he will be receiving more such petitions from all over the world. Yet we have so far heard nothing on this issue from Mr Blair himself. There is a strange silence.

President Clinton, during his tour of Africa, stated: "We're going to talk about it at the G8 meeting. And I will stay on top of this to make sure that what we're trying to get done is accomplished."

Again, having received thousands of postcards reminding them of German debt relief in 1953, Chancellor Kohl and his Finance Minister have insisted that the debt issue is discussed in Birmingham.

But there is still no word from Downing Street. On the contrary, there are rumours that Cabinet ministers have been asked not to sign petitions. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has, on the other hand, said that the issue must be kept on the G8 agenda.

Debt relief will release funds for development in Africa, for hospitals, schools, roads, water supply. Poverty in Africa creates violence and endangers peace. Here is a crucial opportunity for Mr Blair to build for peace in Africa as he has done in Northern Ireland. Other schemes mounted by the IMF and World Bank, such as the "Highly Indebted Poor Country" initiative, are in difficulty. Something more radical is needed.

The Prime Minister is President of the European Union. He is host to world leaders at this summit. He believes in love and justice, in seizing the moral high ground. Here is the chance of a lifetime to do just that.