Analysis: A look at G-8 leaders' summit strategies

5th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

5 June 2007, WASHINGTON (AP) _ Germany's Angela Merkel wants to tackle global warming. Britain's Tony Blair seeks help for Africa. President George W. Bush wants to change the subject from Iraq to areas where allied cooperation is possible.

5 June 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Germany's Angela Merkel wants to tackle global warming. Britain's Tony Blair seeks help for Africa. President George W. Bush wants to change the subject from Iraq to areas where allied cooperation is possible.

All these hopes for the Group of Eight summit could fall victim to rising tensions with Russia which is unhappy over U.S. plans to put an anti-missile system in Russia's backyard.

Following is a look at the strategies the G-8 leaders will be pursuing at the June 6-8 summit in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, Germany.


Bush is hoping to use his seventh G-8 summit to heal relations frayed by the Iraq war by emphasizing areas where his administration and U.S. allies can agree. He spent the days before the summit rolling out several initiatives designed to appeal to foreign critics.

Under international pressure to take action against global warming, the president proposed that the United States and 14 other big polluters spend the next 18 months deciding on a long-term global goal for cutting the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. While representing a significant change of course for the administration, the Bush plan does not go as far as one supported by Germany and other G-8 nations that would set stringent new emissions limits.

Bush also announced new economic sanctions against Sudan in response to the crisis in Darfur that has killed 200,000 people and called on the U.S. Congress to double the U.S. funding commitment to help fight the AIDS crisis in Africa and other poor nations. In a pre-summit interview, Bush said he was looking forward to sharing "a very strong agenda" with the other nations.

While Bush will likely hear less criticism about the Iraq war, he will face a growing rift with Russia over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system to guard Europe against attack from nations such as Iran.

Like last year, Bush will go to the summit with some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. A recent AP-Ipsos poll showed that 35 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling his job, near his all-time low of 32 percent set in January.


President Vladimir Putin, who was last year's host for the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, is making no secret of his unhappiness over the missile defense plans. In pre-summit interviews, he warned that Moscow could take retaliatory steps if Washington proceeds with plans to place a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland. He suggested the retaliation could take the form of retargeting Russian missiles at Europe.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, speaking to reporters on Air Force One as Bush flew to Europe on Monday, said the Bush administration wanted to have a "constructive dialogue" with Russia and did not believe the "escalation in the rhetoric" was helpful in that goal.

Putin arrives at the summit with sky-high approval ratings. A recent poll of Russian voters showed that 63 percent of those surveyed would vote for him again even though he is barred by the Russian constitution from another term. No other Russian politician got more than 4 percent.

Putin's popularity has been aided by an economic rebound fueled by soaring global oil prices. Russia is the world's second largest energy producer after Saudi Arabia. In interviews with reporters, Putin responded to reporters' questions about the Kremlin's crackdown on domestic critics by detailing what he said were widespread human-rights abuses in other G-8 countries.

He and Bush, who are scheduled to meet one-on-one in Heiligendamm, will have more extensive talks during a Putin visit to Bush's family vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 1-2.


Chancellor Angela Merkel, who at her first G-8 summit last year got an unexpected shoulder rub from Bush, has put global warming high on the agenda for this year's summit. She offered muted praise for Bush's new plan, calling it "common ground on which to act." Her proposal, backed by other G-8 nations, goes much farther, however. It calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century and cutting global greenhouse emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Merkel has moved to improve relations with the United States _ severely strained by the anti-Iraq war stance of her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. But she has stuck to Germany's refusal to send troops to Iraq.

She is riding a crest of voter popularity, helped by a rebound in the German economy, Europe's largest, after a long period of stagnation. Her popularity has not transferred to her conservative Christian Democrats, who are in a left-right "grand coalition" government with Schroeder's Social Democrats.

Following past practices, Merkel has invited key developing countries _ China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa _ to attend a portion of the meetings and also opened part of the discussions to several African nations, hoping to build on the commitments the G-8 made on African aid in 2005. As at past summits, security is a major concern with violent clashes with police occurring even before world leaders began arriving for the sessions, to be held behind a 7½-mile long security fence.


Prime Minister Tony Blair, who will leave office after a decade in power on June 27, is hoping to use his final G-8 summit to bolster one of his signature international achievements, gaining pledges from wealthy nations to double support for Africa.

Derided by critics as "Bush's poodle," Blair's image was not helped at last year's summit when an open microphone picked up Bush's greeting of "Yo, Blair," in an exchange seen as underscoring the British leader's junior-partner status in the relationship.

While the G-8 countries have lagged in the goal they set at the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 to double aid to Africa, Blair's aides expressed the hope that the pace of pledges will quicken.

Blair is expected to support any G-8 moves to toughen sanctions against Sudan and will likely press Putin for more help in curbing Iran's nuclear program and providing support for the Middle East peace process. Relations between Britain and Russia have been strained by the poisoning death in London of former KGB agent.


President Nicolas Sarkozy will be attending his first G-8 summit, after having won election to succeed Jacques Chirac on May 6. He won with a campaign platform that pledged to pull the sluggish French economy out of the doldrums, in part by engendering a work ethic and making the country more globalization-friendly. While polls put Sarkozy's approval rating at 65 percent, the rival Socialist Party warns that his pro-market policies will be an assault on cherished social protections such as the 35-hour workweek.

Sarkozy has said nothing about the Iraq war since taking office but in previous comments he called it an "historic error" and said that his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was right to warn of the risk of a war in Iraq. Still, he has moved to improve relations with the Bush administration that had been frayed by the Iraq War.

On climate change, Sarkozy, after his election, said in a phone call with Bush that the United States has the duty to take the lead on the issue because "the fate of humanity is at stake."

Sarkozy is also expected to push for deeper cooperation with Africa in part to curb the flow of illegal immigrants into France. He has promised to be a tough bargainer in global trade talks, saying Europe should only open its markets to those who open theirs.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also a newcomer at this year's summit, goes into the meeting politically wounded by a series of money scandals that culminated May 28 with the suicide of his agriculture minister. Support for Abe has plummeted to its lowest level since he took office last September, succeeding the highly popular Junichiro Koizumi.

Leading the list of scandals that have beset his government is the unexplained disappearance of pension records affecting 50 million people. The political troubles are coming less than two months before crucial elections in July for the upper house of parliament. Embarrassing losses in those elections could prompt Abe's ruling party to seek his ouster as prime minister.

Abe has made climate change a summit priority, recently releasing a plan that calls for a 50 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Japan will also push for a conclusion to the Doha Round of global trade talks and greater efforts to deal with the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.


Premier Romano Prodi, leading a center-left government, marked his first year in office in May, but published opinion polls have shown a decline in his approval ratings, mainly due to bickering inside his coalition and tough economic measures he has put in place to revive Italy's economy.

Adding to Prodi's troubles, center-left candidates fared poorly in two rounds of local elections. Conservative opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, the former premier, said the local vote represented "a clear sign of no-confidence" in the government. Opinion polls have shown should an election be held now, Berlusconi's conservatives would win.

Relations between the United States and Italy have been strained since Prodi _ whose coalition government includes Communists and other radical leftists _ took over from Berlusconi, a staunch Bush supporter. Prodi made good on an election promise and in December completed the pullout of the Italian troops Berlusconi had sent to Iraq. Bush will meet with Prodi in Rome as part of a stop to visit Pope Benedict after the summit.

Stefano Sannino, Prodi's top diplomatic aide, told reporters Monday that on climate change Italy does not expect the G-8 to agree to binding targets for emission reduction but rather a general negotiating framework that he said would be a "a step forward from the past."


Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who ended nearly 13 years of Liberal Party rule in January 2006, has not fared well with voters during his initial time in office. Polls show his approval rating at 33 percent, down seven points in two months. His government is facing allegations of alleged torture of Afghan detainees handed over by Canadians to Afghan authorities.

Harper initially insisted there was no evidence of torture only to have his government embarrassed when reports emerged that the government had received and then tried to hide warnings that torture was rampant in Afghan prisons. To deal with the issue, Canada reached an agreement with the Afghan government that will allow monitoring of the treatment of prisoners that Canadian soldiers hand over.

Last month, Harper's government announced that Canada will not meet its commitments under the Kyoto climate change agreement but it plans to side with European governments at the G-8 summit in endorsing a call for setting targets for reducing greenhouse gases.


Subject: German news

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