Sarkozy steps into world spotlight at G8 summit

5th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 5, 2007 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy makes his debut on the world stage at the Group of Eight summit of rich countries this week, a month after winning office on a pledge to bolster France's international role.

PARIS, June 5, 2007 (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy makes his debut on the world stage at the Group of Eight summit of rich countries this week, a month after winning office on a pledge to bolster France's international role.

Sarkozy is stepping into the shoes of his predecessor Jacques Chirac who was the G8 club's elder statesman when he retired after 12 years in office.

But the 52-year-old French president will be keen to show that he embodies a shift from the Chirac years when he stands alongside US President George W. Bush and leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia at the start of the three-day summit on Wednesday in the German seaside resort of Heiligendamm.

The one-on-one meeting with Bush on Friday provides a diplomatic test for Sarkozy, who has unabashedly praised the United States and shown he wants to move beyond Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war.

His victory speech on May 6 included a pledge to France's "American friends" to stand by Washington in time of need, but also a warning to act on climate change, a top issue at the Heiligendamm summit.

"A great nation like the United States has the duty to not create obstacles in the struggle against global warming. Quite the contrary, it should take the lead in this battle.

"What is at stake is the fate of all humanity," warned Sarkozy. "France will make this battle its first battle."

In an interview with several foreign journalists before the G8 summit, Sarkozy called Bush's climate change initiative last week encouraging as the US president now recognises that there is a global warming problem.

However Sarkozy joined in widespread criticism of the plan for failing to set firm targets for reductions.
 
"In my eyes, it is not sufficient," the French president was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

Summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hoping that the G8 will take the lead on shaping a new binding agreement to cap greenhouse gases but the United States has balked at the idea of setting targets.

While he is no novice at diplomacy, having met world leaders as interior minister, Sarkozy has been carefully preparing for his first international foray as head of state.

Last week he spoke by phone with former US vice president Al Gore who has raised public awareness about global warming with his lecture series "An Inconvenient Truth" that was later turned into a documentary film.

Sarkozy discussed poverty in Africa with Irish rocker Bono who has been a leading advocate of debt relief and the two men agreed during a phone conversation to meet on the sidelines of the Heiligendamm summit.

With polls showing that he is the most popular French leader since Charles De Gaulle, Sarkozy heads into the summit with a strong stature and a reputation as a man of action.

Of the seven leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to offer the coolest reception to Sarkozy, who criticized the war in Chechnya and Moscow's record on human rights during his presidential campaign.

Putin raised eyebrows last month by taking 48 hours to offer congratulations to Sarkozy for his election win over Socialist Segolene Royal.

Since taking office three weeks ago, Sarkozy has made Europe his top priority, travelling to Berlin, Brussels and Madrid while welcoming British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to the Elysee presidential palace.

He has been making headway in his bid to persuade European leaders to get to work on drafting a simplified EU treaty to replace the constitution that was rejected by Dutch and French voters in referendums two years ago.

His success at the G8 summit may well set the tone for the European Union summit in Brussels on June 21 and 22 that is expected to put on full display Sarkozy's resolve to ensure that France plays a leading role in Europe.
 

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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