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G8 leaders uncertain of impact

World leaders talked while protests continued
World leaders talked while protests continued  

By CNN European Political Editor
Robin Oakley

GENOA, Italy (CNN) -- G8 leaders will complete their summit's final communiqué, but they will leave Genoa wondering if their journey has been strictly necessary.

The summit has worked on moves to alleviate poverty in developing countries and for the further forgiveness of debt.

It has made soothing noises to suggest the world is not about to slip from slowdown into recession.

The leaders have pledged $1.2 billion to a new global fund to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases, especially in Africa.

graphic G8 Summit: Genoa 2001

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But the leaders will leave Genoa on Sunday uncertain if the world has noticed their efforts.

The attention of the world outside, they know, has been focussed yet again on the violent riots in the streets by anti-globalization protesters, this time culminating in the death of one Italian protester.

The G8 heads of state and government are used to immediate political events taking over from their longer term deliberations about economic trends.

This time it has been the form of their own meetings and the protests which they attract which has become an urgent topic of their deliberations, with several arguing over dinner last night that things simply cannot go on like this.

Jean Chretien, the Canadian Prime Minister who will host the next G8 summit in 2002, has argued that the size of delegations must be sharply cut down and he was backed by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, who said that he managed with a team of 15, in contrast to the U.S. president who came with a team of 900.

The irony of the Genoa summit is that the leaders, ever more conscious of the protests against globalization, have been pursuing an agenda which they believed reflected the worries of the peaceful protesters in the streets some miles away from their meetings in a medieval palace.

Are international summits, now a target for anti-globalisation violence, worth the trouble?

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They have invited African leaders to comment on their poverty reduction plans and announced plans to counter the digital divide between have and have-not nations.

Concern with Africa's problems was a key theme of the G8 in 2001. Many leaders stressed that they regarded the problems of the African continent, especially the physical and economic devastation being wrought by AIDS, as a new priority.

Sunday's final communiqué is expected to pledge that the G8 countries will do all they can to help equip African countries to take advantage of increased trade.

But the summit leaders have differed strongly from the Genoa protesters in one area. They have stuck firmly to their insistence that more global trade -- not less -- is the best way of helping poorer nations and they are pressing on with plans for a new round of world trade liberalization talks in the autumn.

In Saturday's summit sessions there was no breakthrough on environmental questions in what the U.S. delegation admitted was a "lively debate".

President George Bush remains firmly opposed to the Kyoto protocol although he has promised the other leaders that the U.S. takes the question of global warming seriously and is urgently seeking new technical solutions.

Missile defense was discussed in one-on-one meetings between Bush and Jacques Chirac, the French President and Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, both of whom have been critical of U.S. plans to abandon the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile treaty. But the discussions were said not to have been substantive.

On the Middle East there was a strongly worded communiqué from the G8 leaders who backed the call by their foreign ministers for independent observers to be deployed.

The leaders' statement said: "The urgent implementation of the Mitchell Report is the only way forward. The cooling off period must begin as soon as possible.

"Violence and terrorism must stop. Third party monitoring, accepted by both parties, would serve their interests in implementing the Mitchell Report."

Senator Mitchell's report called for an end to violence, a crackdown on militants by the Palestinian Authority and a freeze on the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

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