President Bush refused on Wednesday to budge on his administration's opposition to doubling aid for Africa, a major proposal on the agenda for a summit meeting of industrial nations next month in Scotland.
The long-simmering dispute could culminate next week when Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who has advocated the plan, visits Washington in advance of the July session, a meeting of the Group of 8. As host of the meeting, Mr. Blair set the agenda, and he argued during his successful campaign for a third term in office that the world's richest nations had to make a $25 billion increase in support for Africa. But Mr. Bush has been cool to the idea from the start and has resisted making new aid commitments.
Asked Wednesday about the issue, Mr. Bush said, "It doesn't fit our budgetary process."
Meeting the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, in the Oval Office on Wednesday morning, Mr. Bush also renewed his administration's declaration, first made by Colin L. Powell when he was secretary of state, that genocide was taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The above is from Elizabeth Becker and David E. Sanger's "Bush Maintains Opposition to Doubling Aid for Africa" in this morning's New York Times.
Zach e-mails to note Carlotta Gall's "Suicide Bomber Leaves 19 Dead at Afghan Rite:"
A suicide bomber detonated a powerful bomb during a mourning ceremony in a mosque in the southern city of Kandahar on Wednesday, killing 19 people, among them the Kabul police chief, and wounding 52 others, the Interior Ministry said. It was one of the deadliest attacks in the three and a half years since the Taliban were removed from power.
The attack took place during mourning for an eminent Muslim cleric, Maulavi Abdullah Fayaz, who was assassinated in his office by unknown gunmen on Sunday. Gen. Muhammad Akram Khakrezwal, who was recently appointed the police chief of Kabul and who died in the bombing, was among the mourners packed into the mosque on Wednesday morning.
Erika e-mails Mona El-Naggar's "Hundreds in Cairo Protest Assaults on Women:"
Several hundred people gathered in downtown Cairo on Wednesday to protest assaults last week on advocates of political change during the country's referendum about direct presidential elections.
Assaults on women in particular and sexual harassment of them had led to anger. Demonstrators contended that the attacks were sanctioned by the government. "Our female colleague's honor is the nation's honor," read one of the banners in the protest on Wednesday.
The demonstrators included both individuals who had started their own spontaneous initiatives and opposition groups chanting familiar political slogans and denouncing President Hosni Mubarak and his government. Some called for the resignation or dismissal of Interior Minister Habib el-Adly.
Wally e-mails to say Richard Bernstein's "'No' Votes in Europe Reflect Anger at National Leaders" is "good for a chuckle and an opportunity for NYT to push their usual neo-liberal agenda while calling it reporting."
Pru got a laugh out of that reporting as well and asked "Do you all get offended by how backward the paper seems?" She steers us towards The Independent's "What now for Europe?" by Stephen Castle and Colin Brown:
Europe's leaders now fear a domino effect and opinion polls show the "no" vote growing even in Luxembourg - one of the most pro-European nations of all the 25 member states - which faces the next referendum, on 10 July. Meanwhile, a political storm is breaking out over the euro amid reports - strenuously denied - that Germany is about to blame the single currency for its chronic economic troubles and five million unemployed.
Urged on by Britain yesterday, the Czech Republic, which still has to put the constitution to a referendum, became the first country to call for the deadline for ratification - currently the end of 2006 - to be set back. That position, which would mean putting the constitution on ice, is backed by the UK and probably Poland where popular votes would almost certainly now be lost. This would scupper a plan to press on with ratification if 20 of the 25 member states ratify the constitution. The hope is that the rest would be pressured into changing their minds.
But the Czechs' suggestion provoked an instant row, revealing the scale of disagreement among EU leaders about how to proceed. The European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, rejected the idea of a delay, urging member states not to take "unilateral decisions" before the 16 June summit.
Tony Blair will now hold emergency talks with EU leaders in the wake of the rejection to discuss the crisis which will overshadow Britain's six-month presidency. The Prime Minister is on holiday in Tuscany until the weekend but senior officials said he would consult EU leaders by telephone over the next 48 hours.
Also from The Independent, Pru e-mails Maxine Frith's "Police scramble to draw up plans to deal with protesters after Geldof's march plea:"
Authorities in Scotland were being forced to draw up contingency plans in response to Sir Bob Geldof's call for a million protesters to "descend on Edinburgh" for a mass rally to coincide with the G8 summit.
Ministers and senior police officers expressed alarm yesterday after they appeared to have been taken by surprise by the scale of the protest on 6 July.
Police, council officials and organisers of the Edinburgh event will meet today for talks in an attempt to prepare for the rally which Scotland's First Minister warned must be "peaceful and respectful".
Jack McConnell sounded the warning in the Scottish Parliament as concern mounted over Sir Bob's call for a massive turnout in the capital. "I think it is absolutely critical any demonstration is peaceful and respectful - not least of those in Africa who are currently starving or dying," he said.
"They are the people it is meant to be all about.
"Whatever the numbers are, I want to see any organisers working closely with the authorities here."
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