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In Paris, Annan meets with Chirac and UK's Blair, addresses business leaders

In Paris, Annan meets with Chirac and UK's Blair, addresses business leaders

(L to R) Kofi Annan, Jacques Chirac and Tony  Blair
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan met in Paris today with French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after earlier telling a conference of business leaders that their efforts were vital in the fight against poverty.

Mr. Annan, who arrived in Paris yesterday for a two-day visit, attended a working lunch with Mr. Chirac and Mr. Blair, where the three discussed the preparations for the General Assembly's summit this coming September, the situation in the greater Middle East, as well the need for increased development financing, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

Following lunch, Mr. Annan spoke to reporters outside the Elysee Palace. He said he was relieved that Iraq hostage Florence Aubenas and her guide Hussein Hanoun were freed. He expressed hope that other hostages will be freed soon.

In an earlier speech to a meeting of international business leaders, the Secretary-General said that the fight against extreme poverty, as enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is no longer a job for governments alone.

The meeting of international business leaders was organized by the Global Compact, a UN inter-agency initiative championed by Mr. Annan which seeks to advance good corporate citizenship and responsible globalization.

"Business is of vital importance to the Goals. The value of the goals to business is equally undeniable," Mr. Annan told the more than 300 participants, who had been invited by President Chirac. "Business generates employment and wealth. Your tremendous human, technical and organizational capacities have direct applications in virtually all realms of development."

Mr. Annan said that the recent efforts of Europe Union members to increase aid, and the decision by the G-7 to cancel $40 billion of debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest nations, mostly in Africa, give real hope.

However, he added, more decisions in favour of the developing world were needed at the G-8 meeting next month and beyond.

The Secretary-General began his day with a 45-minute bilateral meeting with President Chirac, where, his spokesman said, they discussed UN reform, financing for development, the Middle East, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Western Sahara, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Sudan.