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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Clinton kicks off appeal to fight global problems.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton called together some of the world's richest and most influential people on Wednesday in hopes of coming up with more than $2.5 billion and ideas on how to stop conflict, health woes, poverty and climate change.

Among 1,000 people attending the second annual Clinton Global Initiative, or CGI -- many paying $15,000 each -- were billionaire businessmen Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and 50 current and former heads of state.

"CGI was designed to tackle big global challenges in bite size pieces with the conviction that regardless of size or scope our problems will yield to concerted action and innovative partnerships," Clinton told the summit.

He said five commitments worth $350 million had already been made to the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative.

The New York-based initiative grew out of Clinton's frustration while president of the United States, between 1993 and 2001, at attending conferences on important world issues that were simply all talk and no action.

"While we certainly like commitments with lots of zeros behind them, when you consider the hundreds that were made and kept over this past year, some of those with smaller budgets had very large impacts indeed," Clinton said.

"I hope each of us can do even more this year than last."

The inaugural Clinton summit in 2005 attracted more than 300 pledges worth $2.5 billion to fight poverty, global health problems, religious and ethnic conflict and climate change.

Clinton said that about 15 people -- of the more than 500 -- who attended last year and didn't make or didn't keep a commitment were not allowed to return this year.

The 2006 initiative was opened by Clinton and U.S. first lady Laura Bush and a discussion between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The first lady announced the first commitment of the initiative -- $10 million from the U.S. government to kickstart a $60 million public/private project to build children's merry-go-rounds in Africa, which pump clean drinking water into a storage tank.

"Play pumps are fueled by a limitless energy source -- children at play," said Bush, adding that the project aimed to provide clean drinking water to 10 million Sub-Saharan Africans by 2010.


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