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The Group of Eight major countries have reached a basic agreement on the framework of a fund proposed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to promote the international crusade against AIDS, G8 sources said Friday.

The sources said that under the basic G8 agreement, the proposed AIDS fund will be overseen by an independent governing board to be established as the top decision-making body concerning the fund, instead of by the U.N. or the World Bank, as expected earlier.

A technical advisory panel of medical and other experts will also be set up to provide advice and expertise to the governing board, the sources said.

A secretariat for the AIDS fund will be created, possibly within the U.N. or another unspecified international organization, to handle day-to-day operations, and the World Bank will be entrusted with a fiduciary responsibility of monitoring the actual flow of money.

The sources said that the governing board will be independent from the U.N., World Bank and all other international organizations, although its composition has yet to be worked out.

The sources said that the G8 countries reached a basic agreement on the framework of the proposed AIDS fund during a meeting of senior G8 officials held in Italy recently to prepare for an upcoming annual G8 summit.

The AIDS-fund issue is expected to be high on the agenda at the G8 summit, which will be held in the Italian port city of Genoa for three days, starting on July 20. G8 comprises the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.

U.S. President George W. Bush pledged to contribute $200 million to the U.N.-proposed AIDS fund when he met with U.N. Secretary General Annan and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo at the White House last month.

Japan and the other G8 countries are expected to pledge financial contributions during the Genoa summit.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has already said Japan will make “appropriate” contributions to the fund when he met with Obasanjo in Tokyo late last month, although he did not specify an amount. According to government sources, Japan is considering contributing around $100 million to the fund.

But the financial contributions to be pledged by the G8 countries alone will be a far cry from what U.N. Secretary General Annan expects.

Annan has said that the U.N. is hoping to secure at least $1 billion in the short term as the core part of the fund and between $7 billion and $10 billion ultimately from the international community, including private companies and nongovernmental organizations.

According to the U.N., some 36 million people are infected with the AIDS virus around the globe, nearly 70 percent of them living in the heavily impoverished sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS medicine is too costly and not affordable for most patients. The number of dead from AIDS around the world reached a record 3 million last year.

At the last G8 summit in Okinawa, Japan unveiled a decision to provide $3 billion in aid over five years to help developing countries fight infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

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