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Bush outlines aid to fight poverty

President Bush linked the campaign against global poverty with the war on terror and warned world leaders Friday that countries seeking increased U.S. aid would have to "govern justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom."

"When nations close their markets and opportunity is hoarded by a privileged few, no amount _ no amount _ of development aid is ever enough," Bush told the U.N. Conference on Financing for Development. The week-long conference focused on a U.N. goal to cut world poverty in half by 2015.

Referring to the war on terrorism, Bush said, "history has called us to a titanic struggle whose stakes could not be higher because we're fighting for freedom itself."

The world is fighting poverty because "hope is an answer to terror," the president added. But "progress will require change."

Later, Bush held a 90-minute meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox. Bush and Fox reaffirmed a new security plan to guard borders while accommodating trade.

The two also announced an effort the two governments have been developing called "Partnership for Prosperity." The program is designed to narrow the income gap between Mexico and the United States, but offers no substantial foreign aid.

Bush denied pressuring Mexico to force Cuban President Fidel Castro to leave the U.N. meeting Thursday. Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's assembly, remained at the conference and told reporters that "authorized Mexican officials" told the Cubans they were under pressure to bar Castro from the conference.

Bush said there was "no pressure placed on anybody. Fidel Castro can do what he wants to. What I'm uncomfortable with is the way he treats his people."

Fox, who has softened Mexico's traditionally strong support for Cuba, smiled and said, "Mr. Fidel Castro visited Mexico, visited the U.N. conference . . . and he returned to Cuba. Nothing more."

In a speech earlier in the day, Bush highlighted his proposal to increase foreign aid by 50 percent over the next three years, from about $10-billion next year to about $15-billion in 2006.

Bush said he would direct Secretary of State Colin Powell and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to develop "clear and concrete objective" conditions for what is being called the Millennium Challenge Account. The aid would be tied to a country's ability to fight corruption and enact political and economic reforms. The plan also calls on delivering more aid in the form of grants, rather than loans.

"For decades," Bush said, "success of development aid was measured only in the resources spent, not the results achieved. Yet pouring money into a failed status quo does little to help the poor, and can actually delay the progress of reform."

Bush spoke on the final day of the U.N. conference, which attracted dozens of world leaders to discuss how to address poverty and its effects. Bush's Latin American tour takes him to Peru today and El Salvador on Sunday.

Aid to Colombia

The Bush administration said Friday it is seeking $6-million in new money for Colombia to protect an oil pipeline that has been a frequent target of terrorist attacks.

This is in addition to a previously announced request of $25-million to help Colombia combat terrorist kidnappings, and $4-million to expand the reach of Colombia's police to areas previously not under government control.

This would help Colombia go after three armed groups that they contend are terrorist organizations. They are the leftist FARC and ELN groups and the anti-communist AUC. All derive much of their operating funds from narcotics sales.

Colombian Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno said the administration's interest in helping Colombia sends a message to terrorists: "Their days are numbered."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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