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Clinton global aid meeting gathers $1.25 bln

September 18, 2005

Clinton global aid meeting gathers $1.25 bln

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former President Bill Clinton on Saturday adjourned a frenetic, three-day Clinton Global Initiative conference that won pledges of $1.25 billion in commitments to tackle some of the world's biggest problems. 

Nearly 200 formal pledges were made during the global networking among world leaders, corporate tycoons and political, environmental and religious activists brought together by Clinton. 

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton makes his closing remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit in New York September 17, 2005. (REUTERS/Stephen Chernin/CGI/Handout)
"I am gratified by what we've achieved here," said Clinton. "But I hope you leave here with a sense of humility and a sense of how much better we can do." 

Clinton said he planned to hold another summit next year in what might become an annual event. 

Among pledges announced on Saturday were a promise to find a way to provide terror insurance for businesses investing in Gaza, a plan to set up a mobile phone network for an emerging Palestinian state and $1 million to benefit Gaza children. 

Water for Africa, entrepreneurship programs in Africa and for Arabs in the Middle East, investment funds to combat HIV/AIDS and projects to research and reduce global warming also received direct support. 

More pledges are expected in the coming weeks from the rest of the 800 people who attended the meeting that took up four floors of a midtown Manhattan hotel to address poverty, religious conflict, global warming and government corruption. 

A glow of goodwill emanated from many in the conference, buoyed by those who stepped up to sign a commitment to action and receive a handshake from a beaming Clinton. 

Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres said the event was only possible because of the reputation and personality of the former president. 

"Clinton is the greatest charmer on the planet. What he is doing today is noble and global," said Peres. "I personally think we have to privatize peace. This conference is inviting global companies to help build a Palestinian state. You have to construct it." 

'CONTROLLED CHAOS' 

Clinton, who left the White House with his image tarnished by his impeachment after having an affair with an intern, has been busy rebuilding his legacy. 

Since leaving office more than 4 1/2 years ago, he has started a foundation to provide medicine to combat HIV/AIDS, is serving as U.N. envoy for tsunami reconstruction efforts, led U.S. fund raising for tsunami and Hurricane Katrina relief and wrote a best-selling memoir. 

Clinton thanked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for giving his blessing to holding the initiative at the same time as the U.N. Summit, which enabled some 40 world leaders to attend. 

Annan told the conference: "The Global Initiative is important in that it recognizes that change requires collective action. The four priority areas of the CGI reflect also what we are trying to do across town." 

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during Clinton's administration, said the hectic, informal style of the conference contributed to its success. 

"The controlled chaos is one way to get creativity. The intensity of it, the physical rush, the intimacy created the kind of dialogue that leads to synergy," Holbrooke said. 

"The U.N. by contrast is sterile, overly concerned with protocol, overly formal, filled with set-piece speeches. This is what the U.N. in theory is supposed to be but can't." 

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