Russia stakes claim for lead Libya role at G8 summit
Revolt in the Arab world and efforts to seek a way out of the Libyan conflict return to centre stage Friday as leaders of the most powerful nations wrap up a G8 summit in northern France.
Russia said it was prepared to take on a leading role in mediating an end to the three-month-old conflict in Libya after being asked by both Tripoli and Moscow's Western G8 partners to pursue contacts to resolve the conflict.
Western officials said Moscow had not been formally requested to mediate, but a White House spokesman said US President Barack Obama had discussed maintaining contacts with Tripoli with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
According to a draft version of their planned declaration, seen by AFP, the presidents and prime ministers were to call for an end to violent repression in Libya and Syria and for immediate Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
Thousands of police backed by boats and helicopters have been deployed in the chic resort of Deauville to prevent anti-globalisation demonstrators infiltrating the area.
President Nicolas Sarkozy hosts an enlarged G8 session Friday with Egypt and Tunisia as well as the UN, Arab League and IMF being asked to help fund a transition to democracy in the vanguard Arab Spring states.
The leaders are expected to promise new aid for the new governments in Tunis and Cairo to encourage democratic reform following the revolts that overthrew strongmen Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.
Britain's Cameron pledged £110 million ($175 million) to foster democracy in the region -- and Sarkozy is expected to push his partners for more.
Africa has its annual day in the G8 spotlight on Friday when the leaders host the newly elected presidents of the Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea for late morning session devoted to encouraging democracy.
"Requests have been voiced that Russia take upon itself the role of a mediator in settling the situation in Libya," President Dmitry Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalia Timakova told reporters in Deauville late Thursday.
Timakova said the requests were made during a series of bilateral talks between Medvedev and Sarkozy and Cameron.
A US official said Obama had talked with Medvedev about his staying in touch with and having contacts with the Libyan regime, but both Washington and London were cool on the notion that Moscow would take a lead role in mediation.
Sarkozy said he would push all members for tough action on Syria.
"Clearly, the question of strengthening sanctions against Syrian leaders needs to be asked, because the violence being used against demonstrators is unacceptable," Sarkozy told reporters after the first summit sessions.
"There will be discussions about this tonight," he said, before heading to a local waterfront restaurant to host a working dinner with fellow leaders from Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
In a summit first that Sarkozy said would now become an annual fixture, Internet pioneers including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Eric Schmidt joined the G8 national leaders for part of their afternoon session, following their so-called "e-G8" in Paris on the eve of the summit.
The online industry, with backing from Washington, is opposed to plans for regulation, but Sarkozy is pressing for the G8 statement to at least confirm that government has a role in controlling illegal content on the web.
The leaders were expected to agree a statement backing a limited government role in policing the Internet.
They were also expected to agree on boosting global nuclear safety standards in the wake of Japan's devastating tsunami-triggered nuclear tragedy.
The draft final statement laid before the leaders calls on Syria to halt the shooting and "to engage in dialogue and fundamental reforms in response to the legitimate expression of the demands of the Syrian people."
© 2011 AFP