Merkel urges rich nations to give to Global Fund

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BERLIN, Sep 27 (Reuters) German Chancellor Angela Merkel today appealed to about 30 donor countries gathered in Berlin to promise money to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Organisers of the three-day replenishment conference for the Fund expect to raise at least 8 billion dollars for 2008-2010 for projects to fight the three diseases which, they say, claim 6 million lives a year.

''I urge everyone here to lay the foundation for a long-term and reliable financing of the Global Fund,'' Merkel, who is travelling to Africa in early October, told participants.

Overall, the Fund needs 12-18 billion dollar for the next three years but some major contributors, including the United States and Japan, have made clear they will not make pledges in Berlin because the timing does not fit their budget cycle.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has pledged to give the Fund 600 million euros (849.4 million dollars) between 2008 and 2010.

On Tuesday, Britain disappointed campaigners by pledging 1 billion pounds (2.0 billion dollars) up to 2015, including 360 million pounds for 2008-2010. Activists denounced the commitment as being only half the amount Britain had previously pledged.

Merkel also called on developing countries like China, India and Brazil as well as companies to boost their contributions.

Merkel, who put fighting poverty on the agenda of Germany's presidency of the Group of Eight industrialised nations, clinched a 60 billion dollars deal to tackle the diseases in June.

Leaders said the deal was aimed at achieving UN goals for eradicating extreme poverty by 2015 but campaigners complained it included little fresh money for the world's poor and had no timetable attached.

The powers also committed to a 6-8 billion dollars a year replenishment of the Global Fund by 2010.

The Fund has announced a new initiative under which wealthy countries write off debts for developing nations who promise to devote a share of the amount to the Global Fund.

Germany said it would cancel 50 million euros of debt from Indonesia which will pay 25 million euros to the Fund. Pakistan, Peru and Kenya are also interested in the scheme.

The Fund claims to have saved 2 million lives since it was created in 2002 through partnerships with governments, the private sector and local communities.

It will announce later how much the conference has raised.

Reuters SS GC1805

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