Villepin to push for air travel tax at UN

13th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 13 (AFP) - Prime minister Dominique de Villepin is to replace a recuperating President Jacques Chirac at this week's UN summit in New York, where he will push French proposals for a tax on air travel to finance aid to the very poor.

PARIS, Sept 13 (AFP) - Prime minister Dominique de Villepin is to replace a recuperating President Jacques Chirac at this week's UN summit in New York, where he will push French proposals for a tax on air travel to finance aid to the very poor.

The 51-year-old prime minister, who left for the United States on Tuesday, is bearing a presidential message on two important issues -- "funding the fight against poverty" and "reinforcing the United Nations", members of his entourage said.

Chirac, who spent last week in hospital after a "vascular incident" and has been advised not to travel by plane till mid-October, told the weekly cabinet meeting Tuesday that it was time for "mobilisation and action" in favour of development.

"The success of this summit is a major challenge for international solidarity and the future of the multinational system. France is fully engaged in this project," Chirac was quoted as saying by his spokesman.

"France will call for the establishment of a first international solidarity charge on air tickets, profits from which I suggest should be directed as a priority to the fight against Aids and the great pandemics" such as tuberculosis and malaria, Chirac said.

According to the Elysée palace, a charge operating in the European Union at a rate of five dollars for an economy class ticket would bring in between four and 10bn dollars a year.

Three countries -- France, Britain and Chile -- have so far indicated they are willing to launch a tax in 2006, and some 60 other countries are ready to "work" on the issue, French officials said. But the United States remains reticent.

Taking place on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, the three-day World Summit brings together some 150 heads of state and government to discuss progress on goals set five years ago at the Millennium Summit -- as well as contentious matters such as UN reform.

Villepin was to dine Tuesday evening with UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, and on Wednesday appears in the security council alongside US president George W Bush and other world leaders. On Thursday he was due to present the French position before the General Assembly.

The Security Council was where Villepin made his name in February 2003 when, as foreign minister, he delivered a much-praised address warning of the dangers of going to war in Iraq.

The prime minister's trip to New York comes at a time of heightened political sensitivity in France following Chirac's hospitalisation, and his performance at the UN will be carefully analysed for its impact on his own presidential potential.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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