Pope endorses Gordon Brown's aid plan

 The Pope has endorsed British Chancellor Gordon Brown's plan to double international aid to the world's poorest countries by raising cash in financial markets. Brown, the son of a Church of Scotland minister, has been pressing the international community to back his plan for an International Finance Facility (IFF) which will increase annual aid to poor countries from $50 billion to $100 billion by getting donor nations to commit to payments up to 2015. The IFF would use these commitments as collateral for bonds issued in the international capital markets to provide cash now, effectively allowing poor countries to borrow against future aid, to fund extra grants for health and education and debt relief. Brown hopes the Pope's support will add weight to what he has described as a "modern Marshall Plan" for developing countries. In a letter to Brown last week, Cardinal Soldano, the Vatican's Secretary of State, said that the Pope hoped the IFF would "ensure poorer countries a sustained and sustainable financial line which would enable them to undertake much needed development projects and may, in its turn, evoke in the authorities of those countries a heightened sense of accountability and responsibility towards their own citizens." A number of countries, including the United States have failed to fully endorse the plan but the government and particularly Brown, believe the Pope's support will convince them to back the IFF. A Treasury spokesman said: "International backing for the Chancellor's initiative is continuing to grow, and we are pleased and honoured to have support from His Holiness Pope John Paul II."

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