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Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon takes questions during the closing press conference at a G8 ministerial meeting in Gatineau, Que., on March 30, 2010.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon defended the G8's $7.3-billion maternal and child health program this morning, saying it is a "very, very important amount of money."

Foreign Affairs Minister says plan consists of 'very important amount of money'

During the G8 leaders meeting Friday Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the G8 countries had committed $5-billion toward the effort, which will go largely toward health programs in Africa. Another $2.3-billion will come from a group of non G8 countries and the Gates foundation.

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Critics have said the commitment falls far short of what is need and it won't come close to meeting goals the United Nations set in 2000 to reduce global poverty by 2015.

Mr. Cannon told reporters this morning that the G8 plan, which includes $1.1-billion in new funding from Canada, is significant.

"I don't think that $7.3-billion is a small amount of money," he said. Mr. Cannon said the funding goes beyond what the UN had requested for maternal and child health programs under the Millennium Development Goals project.

"Over the course of the next several years ultimately what's important is to be able to say we've reduced child and maternal death, mortality, by how much? and are we on track to reach the goals that were set in 2000," he said. "We're on track, Canada has moved, significantly, the yard sticks with the [maternal health]initiative and second of all I think that we can all look and point to the pertinence of the G8, its accountability in reaching those goals and clearly a country that says its going to commit so many millions of dollars or so many billions of dollars now knows that the commitment is there, its going to be measured by third parties."

Mr. Cannon said the commitment points to the relevance of the G8. When asked if thought the G8 would continue, or be supplanted by the G20, he replied: "I think that the G8 will continue particularly if you look at the development goals," he said.

As for Saturday's discussions among the G8 leaders, Mr. Cannon said the group will review the UN sanctions on Iran and consider other actions that might be taken against that country.

"They might be discussing tactics and strategies and on a going forward basis, what would the next moves be and who is going to do what and how do we continue to get Iran to make sure that they do abide by their obligations," he said.

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The G8 leaders will also discuss North Korea and the sinking of a South Korean naval ship. The objective, he said, will be to encourage North Korea to return to negotiations on nuclear non proliferation.

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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