G8 leaders get down to business, seek climate accord

7th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

7 June 2007, Heiligendamm, Germany (dpa) - Leaders of the world's key industrialized nations got down to formal business Thursday amid divisions over tackling climate change and strained relations between Russia and the West. The Group of Eight (G8) summit, chaired by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will also discuss the future status of the breakaway Serb province of Kosovo, the situation in the Middle East and international efforts to convince Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. G8 members include Germa

7 June 2007

Heiligendamm, Germany (dpa) - Leaders of the world's key industrialized nations got down to formal business Thursday amid divisions over tackling climate change and strained relations between Russia and the West.

The Group of Eight (G8) summit, chaired by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will also discuss the future status of the breakaway Serb province of Kosovo, the situation in the Middle East and international efforts to convince Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

G8 members include Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia. The European Commission is also a participant.

As the leaders gathered in the Baltic coastal resort of Heiligendamm on Wednesday, police used water cannon to break up blockades and demonstrations by thousands of anti-globalization protesters.

On Thursday, about 1,000 demonstrators assembled peacefully at two points near the 12-kilometre-long fence that surrounds the conference site, police sources said.

Diplomats predicted tough debates at the summit on climate change, with US President George W Bush continuing to oppose Merkel's demands that G8 members commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

She also wants them to increase fuel efficiency by 20 per cent and limit the world's temperature rise this century to 2 degrees Celsius.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters that success or failure at the summit depended on whether leaders would agree on such targets and accept the idea of further United Nations talks on climate change.

Bush insisted on Wednesday that he had a "strong desire" to work with Merkel on a climate change accord following the 2012 expiry of the Kyoto Protocol. But he did not hint at any softening of his opposition to specific emission targets.

Washington has said it prefers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of new technology and wants joint action on the question by the world's top polluters, including China and India.

As leaders started meeting for the formal working sessions, Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin deliberately toned down their earlier acrimonious exchanges over European security issues.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of a summit dinner on Wednesday night. A Kremlin official said the encounter had been relaxed and the dinner was "pleasant and informal."

Earlier, Bush played down Putin's threat to retarget missiles on Europe in response to a US plan to station elements of a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The US president insisted that "Russia's not going to attack Europe."

"Russia is not an enemy," said Bush, adding: "There needs to be no military response because we're not at war with Russia."

The US president hinted that Putin's recent Cold War-style comments were intended for domestic Russian consumption, especially in the run-up to next year's elections.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, said Russia had so far only heard "insufficient explanations" for the US plan, repeating Russia's long-held argument that Europe does not face a missile threat from Iran and North Korea.

The G8 meeting continues on Friday when some of the sessions will be attended by the leaders of South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, China, India, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

DPA

Subject: German news

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