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G-8 Meeting's Focus Shifts to Terrorism

New York Times | July 7, 2005
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON

The bombings in London today knocked the summit meeting that had just gotten under way here off of its carefully scripted focus on global warming and African poverty and turned it into a forum for President Bush and other world leaders to express their unity in confronting terrorism.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, as host of the summit meeting of the Group of 8 big industrialized nations, had set an agenda that was intended in part to shift the focus in his nation away from his support for the war in Iraq and his foreign policy partnership with Mr. Bush.

But within minutes of the first session starting, it was apparent that this summit meeting would be defined for its response to violent Islamic fundamentalism. And it seemed perhaps fitting that the American and British leaders were together at the moment when Britain confronted its version of the 9/11 attacks that transformed the national security policy of the United States and ultimately led them to send their militaries together into Iraq.

Indeed, Mr. Bush learned of the London bombings a little over an hour after they occurred, around the start of the first formal meeting, apparently from Mr. Blair, said Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary.

Although Mr. Blair left for London several hours later, Mr. Bush and the other leaders who had gathered here at the Gleneagles golf resort made a show of sticking more or less to their schedule of meetings and discussing their differences over how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

But Mr. Bush was clearly more focused on the terrorist threat. He left a meeting during the middle of the morning and, sitting outside his hotel suite, held a videoconference over a secure line with his national security team in Washington to discuss the possible threat to the United States.

During the day, he had informal conversations with some of his counterparts from other nations and his aides suggested that he used the opportunity to discuss terrorism and his policy of trying to stop terrorists preemptively.

"The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who have got such evil in their hearts that they will take the lives of innocent folks," Mr. Bush said in remarks to reporters. "The war on terror goes on."

If the bombings were intended, as Mr. Blair said, to disrupt the summit meeting, they also had the effect of unifying a group of leaders who have had their differences over everything from the war in Iraq to trade and foreign-exchange rates.

In addition to the leaders of the eight big industrial nations - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia - those of China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa were also on hand for today's session.

"The leaders will stand firm against this evil," said President Vicente Fox of Mexico, adding that the bombings had stirred them all to work harder to reach agreement on a wide variety of issues, including trade and global warming. "It is passing from word to action, the spirit coming out of this meeting," Mr. Fox said.

Two European leaders who were frequently at odds with Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair over the war in Iraq pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain. President Jacques Chirac of France, who has also been squabbling with Mr. Blair on other issues, said his nation was in "total solidarity" with the British. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany said the international community "must do everything in its power to fight terrorism together with all the means at its disposal."

The display of unity may have masked what is sure to be a debate in Britain and elsewhere over whether London was attacked because of Mr. Blair's strong support for the invasion of Iraq. And there was little public talk here about the adequacy of international counterterrorism efforts nearly four years after Al Qaeda adherents attacked the United States.

The leaders here canceled their group photo, and American officials said work continued well into the day on a communiqué intended to show that the group's eight members had found common ground on how to address global warming, an issue on which Mr. Bush is at odds with most of his allies.

Mr. McClellan said Mr. Bush never considered leaving the summit meeting. After learning of the bombings at the start of the first meeting, Mr. Bush summoned his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and asked him to begin coordinating the American response, Mr. McClellan said.

Around the same time, he said, Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, learned of news reports about the bombings from one of his deputies, Joe Hagin. Between them, Mr. McClellan said, Mr. Hadley and Mr. Card began calling other officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was at his home in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

 

 

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