G8 summit begins under heavy security

Amid tight security, leaders from the world’s most powerful nations are meeting in the French resort of Evian today with hopes of repairing relations frayed by the US-led war on Iraq.

    Police have created a buffer zone
    around Evian to stop protestors

    Delegates at the three-day summit will try to establish a concrete plan to tackle international terrorism and global economic woes.

    G8 leaders traditionally use their summits to assess the health of the global economy and recommend measures to boost growth.

    Despite fears about the faltering US economy, including the tumbling dollar and the spectre of deflation, this year's gathering will more likely focus on reconciling the rifts over Iraq.

    US President George W Bush, who is also on a six-country tour after the US-led war on Iraq, will be meeting face to face with European leaders who were opposed to the war.

    But Bush and his closest war ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, are under increased international pressure over their failure to uncover any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - their stated reason for toppling Saddam Hussein.

    For the first time since their row over Iraq, Bush met President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg for the Russian city's 300th anniversary celebrations. He also exchanged a few words with anti-war campaigner German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

    All eyes on Bush, Chirac

    Analysts will also be paying close attention to the Bush-Chirac talks on Monday, their first since the crisis.

    French President Jacques Chirac, who is the host of the three-day Evian summit starting today left St Petersburg just prior to the US leader's arrival.

    Analysts will be observing relations
    between Bush and Chirac

    Speaking in Poland, a key US ally in the war, Bush said Europe and the world's only superpower should bury their differences in order to better fight the "new enemy" - terrorist groups and states seeking weapons of mass destruction.

    "This is a time for all of us to unite in the defence of liberty and to step up to the shared duties of free nations"

    "This is no time to stir up divisions in a great alliance," he said.

    Chirac, who has been championing a new multi-polar world order to contain US influence, said he was "very happy" to have the chance to meet Bush.

    "The G8's goals are goals for tomorrow's world order," he said, saying the summit would focus on growth, development, the environment and Africa, and "have nothing to do with the divisions that appeared."

    Chirac wants the summit to make Africa a priority, addressing problems such as debt relief, AIDS and drinking water, and has invited leaders from a dozen emerging nations including Brazil, India, Malaysia and South Africa for the first day.

    South African President,Thabo Mbeki, said he would tell the G8 to drop trade barriers to farm products from poor countries in order to lift millions out of poverty.

    Bush is expected to urge his G8 partners to match US efforts to fight AIDS after he signed into law a $US15 billion plan to combat the disease in Africa.

    Heavy security

    As Swiss and French authorities prepared for the arrival of the global leaders, anti-globalisation protestors converged on Geneva to demonstrate against the Sunday G8 summit.

    About 15,000 French and 10,000 Swiss security forces, backed by a fleet of military aircraft, are patrolling the Swiss lakefront spa town and surrounding areas - hoping to prevent the violent clashes that scarred the Genoa summit two years ago.

    But peaceful demonstrations turned ugly late on Saturday night when French riot police used tear gas and batons to disperse hundreds of activists trying to disrupt a meeting of French Socialists at the nearby town of Annemasse.

    Authorities are keeping demonstrators well away from the summit – using a 30 kilometre security buffer zone ringing Evian.


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