Nigerian President Urges

Agence France Presse
July 20, 2000

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo called Thursday for leaders of the rich and poor worlds to meet at the 2001 Group of Eight (G8) summit to tackle debt and other development barriers. Speaking to G8 leaders in Tokyo a day before this year's summit gets under way in the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, Obasanjo said closer "North-South" cooperation was essential.

"We of the South now have a South summit coordinating council of five members," he told the G8, after co-chairing a Group of 77 developing nations' summit in Cuba in April. "Let the G8 have a one-day meeting with the five before the next G8 meeting" next year in Italy," the Nigerian leader said, reading from a prepared statement obtained by AFP.

"We must deal with the challenges for development not as separate entities but in partnership, as members of the same global family with shared interests and responbilities. "Common cause demands common action," Obasanjo told the G8 leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac.

Alongside South African President Thabo Mbeki, Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Obasanjo was in Tokyo to present the developing world view to G8 officials. The meeting was "historic, the first time that developing nations are meeting the richest nations," Bouteflika told a news conference. Debt relief for the world's poorest nations was the overriding priority, the African leaders said.

The G7 -- G8 minus Russia -- pledged at a summit in Cologne, Germany, last year to cancel the debt of the 41 most Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs). But campaigners complain that not a cent has been cancelled since the G7 meeting in June last year.

"It is our strongly held view that all debt relief or remission measures, especially the HIPC initiative, must be made more inclusive and flexible in their application," Obasanjo told the G8 leaders during three-hour talks. "We are convinced that genuine and sustainable growth would continue to elude many developing countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, in the absence of debt cancellation."

The debt issue was "urgent and pressing" in societies in transition such as Nigeria, added Obasanjo, who was elected president last year to end almost two decades of military rule. "We recognise the grave threat posed by the debt question, poverty, corruption, looted funds, terrorism and drug-trafficking to the stability and prosperity not only of the developing world but of all countries," he said. "They are essentially global challenges for development and peace, security, stability and development."

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