EU offers $1.3 billion to reduce poverty

European leaders have offered $1.3 billion at the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit here, amid mounting calls for money to pay for the battle to cut extreme poverty.

The huge sum was offered late on Monday by EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the end of the first day of a summit on the goals, knocked off track by the international financial crisis.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero earlier stepped up a push for a global financial tax, raising pressure on the world's wealthy countries at the three-day summit to contribute more in the drive to eradicate poverty and improve child and maternal health.

African nations in particular are calling for more action.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the struggling effort to reach eight key development goals by 2015 could still be met if world leaders provide the necessary money and political will.

The aims include cutting the more than one billion people living on less than a dollar a day, reducing by two-thirds the number of children who die before the age of five, seeking fairer trade, and spreading the Internet to the world's poor.

While spectacular progress has been made in some areas, most experts say none of the goals will be reached by the target date. The international financial crisis has cut off badly needed funding.

Mr. Sarkozy said: “We have no right to shelter behind the economic crisis as supposed grounds for doing less.

“Finance has globalised, so why should we not ask finance to participate in stabilising the world by taking a tax on each financial transaction.”

Mr. Sarkozy vowed to press for a global tax when France is head of the Group of 20 and Group of Eight countries next year.

He also said France would increase its payments to the U.N. fund on AIDS and malaria.

U.N. officials estimate that at least $120 billion will have to be found over the next five years to hope to meet the eight goals.

Aid groups, however, say much more will be needed and have expressed doubts about the political will to meet the goals, set in 2000.

Politicians have also indicated some doubts.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the meeting that not all the targets would be met in all countries by 2015.

Africa made increasingly strident criticism of wealthy nations.

Georges Rebelo Chukoti, Angola's secretary of state for external relations, said: “The fight against poverty cannot be won only with the holding of conferences and summits to negotiate more commitments to development.

“Overcoming hunger and poverty requires primarily that we implement the international commitments we have already made.

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