WASHINGTON – Indispensible allies in the War on Terror, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search ) looked in a different direction Tuesday, announcing a plan to improve conditions in Africa by erasing the debt in countries considered to be on the road to reform.
Those nations "should not be burdened with mountains of debt," Bush said with Blair at his side at a White House press conference.
Blair has called for the cancellation of all debt in the poor nations of Africa as well as doubling financial aid to that continent over 10 years.
The joint pledge on Tuesday stopped short of that goal. Bush, however, announced that the United States will provide $674 million in additional resources "to respond to humanitarian emergencies in Africa," specifically the famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The United States has already provided $1.4 billion to Africa this year through the United Nations and separately pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa over the next decade. Bush noted that U.S. aid for Africa has tripled during his presidency.
"Helping those who suffer" in Africa is "a central commitment of my presidency," Bush said. "We're committed to doing more in the future."
For his part, Blair welcomed the gesture, acknowledging part of the problem in accelerating Africa's progress is making sure aid money is not lost to corruption or squandered on nations that don't aggressively embrace democratic reforms.
"It's about making sure that in doing this is not a something-for-nothing deal," Blair said.
The British prime minister is expected to push for the debt-relief plan when he hosts theG-8 (search) summit of industrial nations in Gleneagles, Scotland next month. Bush was quick to say that the United States supports debt cancellation and is the world leader in terms of African aid.
Blair arrived at the White House on Tuesday afternoon in a Cadillac lent to him by the administration. Some of his staffers were riding in a Silver Rolls Royce.
This was the first meeting between the two leaders since Blair won a tough re-election to a third term last month. His Labour Party lost seats in Parliament, however, partly because of the unpopularity of the Iraq war. Blair has been under fire since the disclosure last month of a top secret document known as theDowning Street Memo (search) .
In the memo, written in July 2002, eight months before the invasion of Iraq, the head of British intelligence told Blair that U.S. officials seemed pre-determined to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," the memo reads.
On Tuesday, both leaders categorically rejected any assertion that the facts were fixed.
"There's nothing farther from the truth," Bush said. "Both of us didn't want to use our military. It was our last option."
Said Blair: "The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all."
Rehashing the run-up to the Iraq war was of little interest to the leaders. Bush instead spent much of his time discussing the importance of the U.S.-U.K. alliance, calling it stronger than ever when it comes to spreading democracy worldwide and reaching the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
What the two don't see eye to eye on is global warming, another topic Blair hopes to cover during the G-8 conference.
On Tuesday, the national science academies of 11 countries — the eight meeting next month in Scotland and China, India and Brazil — said man is the major source of global warming, through emissions from cars, power plants and other technology.
"It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities. ... The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action," a report from the academies states.
White House officials continue to say it's unclear how much mankind is responsible for global warming. White House spokesman Scott McClellan add that emission limits outlined for the United States in the 1997 Kyoto treaty (search) , which the United States refuses to ratify, are unacceptable.
"The Kyoto protocol was something that was rejected unanimously by the U.S. Senate because it would have been a huge job killer here in the U.S. and because it didn't address developing nations in that protocol as well," McClellan said.
Bush stressed that the United States is committed to fighting greenhouse gasses.
"It's a serious long-term issue that needs to be dealt with. And my administration is not waiting around to deal with the issue, we're acting. I don't know if you're aware of this, but we lead the world when it comes to dollars spent" on environmental protections, Bush said.
FOX News' Carl Cameron and Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.