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G-8 Leaders Scale Back Goals at Summit

Associated Press | July 6, 2005
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

GLENEAGLES, Scotland -- World leaders scaled back goals for relieving African poverty and combatting global warming under U.S. opposition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's ambitious objectives.

The leaders of the Group of Eight nations began arriving Wednesday at this posh golf resort for three days of discussions. Blair, as the host, was the first to arrive, coming from Singapore where he had engaged in a round of last-minute lobbying on London's successful bid to serve as host for the summer Olympics in 2012.

Speaking to reporters shortly after London was awarded the games, Blair called the decision a "momentous day" and acknowledged he was having trouble concentrating on the G-8 agenda.

"I've been trying to work on the G-8 stuff, but I have to say that my mind has been in two places today," Blair said.

President Bush and his wife arrived in Scotland aboard Air Force One a few hours before the summit was to begin with a dinner among G-8 leaders hosted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

Thousands of protesters took the streets in Auchterarder, a village near the resort. They were led by a bagpiper dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt and chanted "Power to the people."

Scottish police at first called off the march because they said public safety could not be guaranteed after a smaller band of 100 protesters smashed car windows, threw rocks and attempted to block one of the main roads leading to the resort. However, the police relented and allowed the march to proceed after organizers complained that their free speech rights were being denied.

Leaders' aides, meanwhile, met behind closed doors on the two issues Blair has made the main focus of this year's meeting _ support for Africa, the globe's poorest continent, and increasing efforts to deal with the pollution that scientists believe is linked to planet warming.

Blair challenged G-8 countries to double aid to Africa from a current total of $25 billion to $50 billion by 2010 and to increase giving for all foreign aid to the equivalent of 0.7 percent of national incomes by 2015.

Bush, after initially resisting Blair's call, announced last Thursday that he would seek to double U.S. aid by 2010, to $8.6 billion from $4.3 billion in 2004. But Bush opposes the 0.7 percent target. Anti-poverty activists said that Bush's goal of $8.6 billion fell about $6 billion short of what was needed from the United States to meet Blair's $50 billion target.

As a consequence, the final communique was expected to drop any reference to a $50 billion goal in favor of talk more generally of a "doubling" of assistance.

Bush, stopping in Denmark on the way to Scotland, warned he would emphasize the need for African nations to commit to good governance in order to get increased support.

"I don't know how we can look our taxpayers in the eye and say, this is a good deal to give money to countries that are corrupt," he said. "We want to make sure that the governments invest in their people, invest in the health of their people, the education of their people, and fight corruption."

The differences were even starker on global warming. Blair wanted a plan to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But U.S. officials lobbied to prevent the inclusion in the G-8 communique of any specific reduction targets as called for in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The United States is the only G-8 country that has refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty, with Bush saying that doing so would have "wrecked" the U.S. economy.

Sir Michael Jay, Blair's representative in the discussions, called the negotiations on global warming "pretty intense." He predicted the G-8 would reach an accord that recognized the problem and the need to combat it without mentioning specific targets.

Bush said in Denmark that "the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem."

However, he made plain that mandatory targets are off the table. He referred repeatedly to the Kyoto treaty in the past tense, even though it took effect in February, and said the goal for his plan is to control greenhouse gases merely "as best as possible."

Bush said he "can't wait" to talk with summit colleagues about the United States' alternative proposed approach, which stresses spreading clean-energy technologies to both developed and developing nations.

"I think there's a better way forward," Bush said. "I would call it the post-Kyoto era, where we can work together to share technologies."

Blair was expected to try to salvage the climate change issue by shifting debate away from disagreements with the United States and toward gaining support for emission controls in China. The country's surging economy has made it the world's second biggest producer of greenhouse gases after the United States.

In addition to boosting aid for Africa, the G-8 leaders were expected to endorse a deal their finance ministers reached in June to wipe out $40 billion in debt that 18 poor countries _ 14 of them in Africa _ owe international lending agencies including the World Bank.

Blair also was pushing the rich nations to reach agreement on cutting the farm subsidies that they give their farmers but which depress imports from poor nations.

Bush has said the best way to deal with agricultural subsidies is for Europe and the United States to jointly agree to get rid of them through the Doha Round of global trade talks.

In addition to the two key issues Blair selected, the discussions are expected to cover the world's political hot spots, from Iraq to the Middle East peace process and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

Leaders also were expected to grapple with global oil prices that have surged to unprecedented heights, briefly topping $60 per barrel, and threatened to slow the global economy.

The G-8 comprises the U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

 

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