Blair: Panel to monitor West's Africa commitments

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is launching a high-profile international group to monitor rich nations' progress in meeting their commitments to Africa, Blair's office said Sunday. Downing Street said the Africa Progress Panel would be chaired by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and funded by Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates. Members include anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. A Downing Street spokeswoman said Blair would make the announcement during a speech Monday in London. Blair made alleviating African poverty a key goal of Britain's 2005 leadership of the G-8 group of rich industrialized nations. A G-8 summit last July in Gleneagles, Scotland, garnered commitments to double aid to the continent to US$25 billion by 2010 and to cancel the debt of the most heavily indebted poor nations. "What we achieved at Gleneagles was more than all but those with the most rose-tinted spectacles thought was possible," said a partial transcript of Blair's speech, distributed by his office. "These issues were not high up the political agenda, in the UK, let alone internationally. Now they are." Blair will claim good progress has been made on meeting Gleneagles commitments. "But it will take hard work for years to come to eliminate poverty in Africa and tackle climate change," Blair's transcript said.