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France will begin
airline tax to fight HIV next year

France will begin
airline tax to fight HIV next year

France plans a tax on airline tickets next year to finance the global struggle against poverty and diseases that are ravaging the developing world, including AIDS, French president Jacques Chirac announced this week. While the idea is still being debated at the international level, France wants to launch a pilot program to prove it could work. The first funds would go first toward fighting AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, Chirac said.

"Without waiting, I asked the government to start the procedures necessary to put such a levy in place next year," Chirac told French ambassadors gathered in Paris. Officials will now study the judicial ramifications and how exactly the project would work.

The measure must pass parliament, finance ministry spokesman Sylvain Lambert said. Chirac's party has a strong parliamentary majority.

France, Germany, Spain, Algeria, Brazil, and Chile will push for an international levy on airline tickets at a United Nations summit in New York in mid September, Chirac said. Last month U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan told Britain's Financial Times newspaper that he supported the plan and that the idea "seems to be taking hold." Chirac wrote to 145 leaders around the world later in July to try to win support.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents 265 airlines, has been deeply critical of the proposal. By targeting airline tickets, it has said, officials will hurt tourism--a main source of revenue in many developing countries. (AP)

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