Anti-Terror Funding 'Obscenity'
Compared To AIDS


(AFP) -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy blasted as a "grotesque obscenity" the money lavished on the US-led war on terror given the relative pittance spent on Africa's AIDS orphans and HIV-infected millions.
"Millions of children live traumatised, unstable lives, robbed not just of their parents, but of their childhoods and futures," Stephen Lewis, who is Annan's representative for AIDS in Africa, told the opening of a major conference here.
"How can this be happening, in the year 2003, when we can find over 200 billion dollars to fight a war on terrorism, but we can't find the money to prevent children from living in terror? And when we can't find the money to provide the antiretroviral treatment for all of those who need such treatment in Africa?
"This double standard is the grotesque obscenity of the modern world."
Lewis did not mention the United States by name or give details for the 200-billion-dollar figure.
Earlier, the specialist UN agency UNAIDS said spending on the AIDS war in Africa was at last rising relatively fast, amounting to around 900-950 million dollars for 2002.
"It's half of what we need to confront this epidemic in the continent, but it's already a doubling of what we had a few years ago," Michel Sidibe, a director at the UN's AIDS agency who is in charge of country and regional support.
Sidibe said it was time to smash the myth that Africa was an unsalvageable basket case.
In addition to money inflows from the Global Fund and others, the price of drugs was falling and African governments were working to combat stigma and encourage HIV prevention, he said.
The six-day International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) is a forum held every two years that focusses on specifically African aspects of the pandemic.
Some 8,000 doctors, researchers, policymakers and grassroots campaigners were registered for the meeting.
Today, around 30 million Africans have AIDS or HIV, accounting for around three-quarters of the world's total. Some 15 million Africans have already died, and 11 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease.
From the Sahara to the Cape, one adult in 11 has the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on average.
Yet, at the end of last year, only 50,000 people had access to antiretroviral therapy, the drug "cocktail" that has made HIV a manageable condition for millions of people in the West.
The good news is that the cost of antiretrovirals in developing countries has fallen dramatically, thanks to price cuts by big pharmaceutical companies.
And it is expected to slide further, thanks to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement in which poor, vulnerable countries will be able to import cheap generic copies of patented medication under a "compulsory licensing system."
The great priority now, said delegates at the Nairobi conference, is how to to distribute them -- quickly, fairly and in ways that ensure that they are not abused and resistance to the drugs develops.
Sidibe sounded the alarm for southern and eastern Africa, warning that the AIDS crisis was locking countries there into a vicious circle.
Economic costs and social tensions were being dangerously amplified by growing numbers of orphans, open to exploitation; food shortages in southern Africa had accelerating the demise of people with HIV; and in some countries as many as half of the police and military had the virus.
"This new crisis ... is reducing the productivity, is changing completely the pyramid of population," he said.
"It is influencing the whole capacity of the state to continue to play its normal function by providing basic services to the people. Schooling is collapsing. The security foundation is completely undermined," he said.
Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.
her highlighting the security turmoil under US occupation.
As Britain sought to galvanise European support on how to rebuild Iraq, a senior Iraqi council delegation left for New York to attend a key UN General Assembly meeting, which starts Tuesday.
Iraq's interim finance minister, meanwhile, announced a sweeping package of economic reforms to liberalise his country and said that he hoped to win pledges of around 70 billion dollars (61.5 billion euros) in aid at a donor conference next month.
The killing of the three soldiers, which happened on Saturday, was a new sign that the security situation in the war-ravaged country remains dire.
One of them died in Ramadi, 110 kilometres (70 miles) west of Baghdad, when a military vehicle was hit with an "improvised explosive device," an army statement said.
Earlier, a US military spokesman said a mortar attack on Abu Gharib prison, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of Baghdad, had killed two soldiers and wounded 13 others.
Eighty-two US soldiers have now died in attacks in Iraq since May 1, when US President George W. Bush said major combat operations after the removal of president Saddam Hussein were over.
The US military headquarters in the northern city of Mosul also came under fire Sunday when it was targetted by mortars, according to witnesses, who were unable to specify if there were any casualties.
The latest incidents came after Iraqi Governing Council member Akila al-Hashimi was shot several times on Saturday near her western Baghdad home.
The condition of the former member of Saddam's ousted Baath Party is still critical but has been improving after she was stabilised by another operation overnight, officials said.
At least one suspect was arrested for the attack -- the first on the US-installed administration since Saddam's regime fell in April.
The shooting followed a surge in anti-US attacks since the release of a new message, purportedly by Saddam, issuing a call to arms against the occupiers.
Governing Council chairman Ahmad Chalabi blamed "Saddam's assassins" for the attack on Hashimi, who he said had faced repeated threats.
"We firmly believe that the criminals were remnants of the Baathist regime and Saddam's assassins," he said.
Paul Bremer, Washington's top man in Iraq, led condemnation of the shooting, branding it a cowardly act that would not derail reconstruction efforts.
Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday also condemned the attack, calling it a "painful and regrettable incident" but one that "proves yet again that the US is incapable of assuring security in Iraq."
Council members on a visit to the United States however said that foreign extremists could have been behind the assassination attempt.
Songkul Capuk, another female council member, said she was certain Hashimi was the target of foreign killers but insisted the attack would not halt the work of the US-named interim authority.
In Dubai meanwhile, Iraqi finance minister Kamel al-Kilani announced a massive economic reform package to open his country up to foreign investment, allowing 100-percent foreign ownership in all sectors except natural resources, a harbinger of large-scale privatization to come.
"The measures will be implemented in the near future and represent important steps in advancing Iraq's reconstruction effort," Kilani said in a statement released by the US delegation to the International Monetary Fund meetings in Dubai.
A meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) most industrialised nations also vowed in the Gulf Arab state to "seek a solution" to Iraq's massive debt by the end of 2004.
Kilani met US Treasury Secretary John Snow in Dubai Sunday.
Snow described the reform programme as "a very promising set of policies" and dismissed suggestions that the reforms were being imposed on Iraq by Washington.
Kilani also told AFP that his government hoped to get financial commitments of around 70 billion dollars from donors at a key aid conference in Madrid on October 23-24.
"We hope it's going to be around 70, 75... it could be 65 billion dollars, depending on the negotiations," he said. "This will be for the reconstruction of Iraq over the next few years, four or five years, but we have to move swiftly."
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted Spanish counterpart Jose Maria Aznar as he pursued efforts to garner broad international support on rebuilding Iraq.
In Berlin on Saturday, Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for a rapid transfer of power in Iraq and a central role for the UN after summit talks.
The trilateral talks, the first in two years, were meant to heal Europe's diplomatic wounds and find common ground on stabilising Iraq ahead of talks Bush will hold with Chirac and Schroeder on Tuesday and Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
At stake is a UN resolution that would help Washington by approving a multinational force for Iraq and sharing the financial costs of rebuilding, more than five months after the fall of Saddam's regime.
Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved. All information displayed in this section (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the contents of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presses.




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