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Daily Archives: 06/26/2010

G8 leaders to focus on international security

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June 26, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, Canada, June 26, 2010 (AFP) – Leaders of the industrial world were to shift their attention to Iran and North Korea Saturday as nuclear proliferation and other security issues take center stage at their summit.

“The session… is going to focus on peace and security, Iran and North Korea will be discussed” a senior US official told reporters at the Group of Eight (G8) summit being held north of the Canadian city of Toronto.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said US President Barack Obama also planned meetings with the leaders of South Korea on Saturday and of China and Japan on Sunday to discuss the security situation in East Asia.

The heads of eight powerful nations are set to debate North Korea’s alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, with Japan pushing for an outright condemnation of the nuclear-armed state.

The outcome on Saturday, the final day of the two-day summit, will be watched closely by diplomats as it can set the stage for any UN action over the incident, in which 46 sailors died.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in talks at the summit sidelines Friday that “it is important for G8 to support South Korea and issue a clear message of condemnation” against North Korea.

Four of the five permanent UN Security Council members — Britain, France, Russia and the United States — are in the G8. The G20 meeting of developed and emerging nations takes place in Toronto later Saturday and on Sunday.

On Friday, Europe and the United States tried to bridge differences over how to sustain fragile global economic recovery and sought common ground on dealing with ballooning deficits.

All eyes at the summit in an exclusive lakeside resort were on a potential clash between European leaders bent on slashing spending and a Washington fearful of stifling growth.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel showed her hand early, insisting members must move fast to cut soaring public deficits and ensure financial stability — but both she and US officials stressed this did not represent a split with the United States.

“The discussion was not controversial, there was a lot of mutual understanding,” she told journalists.

“I have made it clear that we need sustainable growth and that growth and intelligent austerity measures don’t have to be contradictions,” Merkel said.

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the meeting had gone well and that Merkel and Obama had not fallen out over Germany’s call for immediate fiscal tightening.

“The president sees deficit reduction as part of a medium and long-term growth strategy. Coming to the G8 and G20 his main focus is these things are not exclusive,” the administration official told reporters.

The leaders — from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States — held closed door talks among themselves and with a group of African leaders.

Europe has been spooked by a sovereign debt crisis that has pushed some eurozone members such as Greece to the brink of default — threatening the stability of the euro and of some European financial institutions.

Merkel has led the way in pushing for governments to rein in their record deficits, and has vowed to slash Germany’s own spending by 80 billion euros (98 billion dollars) over the next four years.

Britain’s new government this week announced the biggest cuts in decades.

But some other capitals, including Washington, fear a dramatic attack on spending could undermine jobs, consumer demand and even the strength of the global recovery — threatening a “double dip” recession.

In Toronto around 2,000 protesters — a loose coalition of leftist activists and anarchists — faced off against riot police, but there was no serious violence and no more than a handful of arrests.

Larger protests were planned for Saturday when delegates return to Toronto from the Huntsville resort to meet more world leaders under the G20 format..

Canada has spent a billion dollars to secure the summit behind a ring of steel and police reinforcements, hoping to avoid a repeat of the large-scale street violence that has marred previous global meetings.

Aside from moving closer to agreement on the economic challenge, the leaders announced a five-billion-dollar package of aid to help protect mothers in the developing world from illness.

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World summit turning attention to nuclear threats

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Canada’s Prime minister (L) welcomes US President Barack Obama (R) at the G8 summit on June 25, 2010 in Hunstville, Ontario.

Tulsa World.com

June 26, 2010
HUNTSVILLE, Ontario — After failing to resolve their differences on economic strategy, world leaders are turning their attention to grappling with some of the globe’s toughest foreign policy problems.

President Barack Obama and other leaders of the Group of Eight major industrial countries were scheduled to open their second day of talks Saturday focused on nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

On Iran, the U.S. and European nations will push other major powers to join them in imposing tough new sanctions on Tehran over its suspect nuclear program, a move that would build on expanded U.N. Security Council measures adopted this month. But China and Russia only reluctantly supported those sanctions and have balked at new unilateral steps against Iran.

The foreign policy discussions among the leaders of the G-8 — the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia — were taking place after an opening day of talks during which the group failed to resolve a dispute over the proper mix of government spending and deficit reductions needed to keep the global economy on track.

Obama made the case that the global economy remained fragile and should not be put at risk by countries moving too rapidly to trim their bulging deficits through spending cuts and tax increases, which can slow economic growth.

But leaders of Britain, Germany, Canada and Japan argued that deficit cuts were needed to reassure nervous investors, given the severe market turmoil experienced in May after the near-default of Greece on its huge debt burden.

The G-8 talks were being held in a resort that is a two-hour drive north of Toronto. After they wrap up at midday Saturday, the G-8 leaders were scheduled to travel to Toronto for discussions with the larger Group of 20, which includes not only the wealthy nations but major emerging powers such as China, Brazil and India.

The G-20 leaders’ summit, launched in response to the global financial crisis in the fall of 2008, has now replaced the G-8 as the world’s premier forum for discussing and coordinating economic policy.

In addition to the group discussions, the leaders were holding a series of one-on-one talks.

Obama was meeting Saturday with new British Prime Minister David Cameron for the first time since Cameron took power last month. Those talks were expected to cover the difficulties posed by the BP oil spill, the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Obama was also to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to discuss South Korea’s push for action by the U.N. Security Council to hold North Korea accountable for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

In a third meeting, Obama was to hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, a week after China announced it would start allowing its currency, the yuan, to rise in value against the dollar. The administration had been pushing China to take this step as a way of boosting U.S. exports to China.

In Toronto, hundreds of protesters moved through city streets Friday, but police in riot gear blocked them from getting near the summit security zone. Some 19,000 law enforcement officers, from all over Canada, were providing security at a cost of more than $900 million.

The protests have been tame compared with past summits. The largest demonstration, sponsored by labor unions, was planned for Saturday.

Obama arrived in Canada fresh from a congressional win on financial overhaul, a victory that the administration hopes will persuade the other G-20 nations to adopt their own tough standards for banks in an effort to avoid a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis that pushed the global economy into a deep recession.

But in Friday’s discussions, Obama made no headway in his call for more stimulus to keep the world economy growing. Instead, he ran into strong opposition from countries wanting to put deficit reduction first.

There was little expectation of economic breakthroughs on the deficit versus stimulus debate, or on the issue of financial overhaul by the time the three days of talks end on Sunday. The G-20 leaders were expected to push tough decisions on global banking regulations off to their next meeting in Seoul, South Korea, in November.

Divided on economic remedies, the leaders searched for common ground on other issues, such as providing greater support for maternal and infant health care in desperately poor countries — a key goal of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the summit host.

Harper announced late Friday that the G-8 leaders had pledged to contribute $5 billion over the next five years to the initiative. He said Canada’s contribution was $1.1 billion and the White House announced the U.S. would contribute $1.35 billion over the next two years, subject to congressional approval. Japan announced a pledge of $500 million over five years.

A Japanese spokesman, Kazuo Kodama, said that new Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told his counterparts from Canada and Germany that North Korea’s alleged torpedo attack is a “threat to the peace and stability of the region.” Kan wants summit partners to issue a “clear message of condemnation” of North Korea, the spokesman said.

On Afghanistan, Cameron said he did not expect British troops — now numbering about 10,000 — to be in Afghanistan in five years’ time. “We can’t be there for another five years, having been there for nine years already,” he told Britain’s Sky News.

Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization — for which Obama voiced strong support on Thursday after a meeting in Washington with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — could also come up during the weekend talks. Obama pledged to help Russia speed up its more than decade-long bid in hopes that Moscow could win acceptance as early as Sept. 30.

New Australian PM Reassures US on Afghanistan

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June 25, 2010

(VOA)  New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reassured the White House that Canberra intends to maintain its military deployment in Afghanistan.  On the first day in her new job, Ms. Gillard spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to the war against insurgents.

In a 20 minute telephone conversation Friday, Ms. Gillard said her government’s commitment to the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan would continue despite mounting public opposition to the war at home.

Canberra has deployed 1,550 troops to the south of Afghanistan, including elite commandos, military training specialists and reconstruction units.

Ms. Gillard told reporters in Canberra that Australia remains committed to the war effort.

“I fully support the current deployment and I indicated to President Obama that he should expect to see the Australian efforts in Afghanistan continuing.”

Earlier this week, Defense Minister John Faulkner said Australia could start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in two years if their mission to train local soldiers went ahead as planned. It was the first time a senior government figure offered a possible timetable on pulling forces out of the troubled country.

Anti-war campaigners in Australia have urged the new Gillard government to end the Afghanistan deployment, insisting that the war against insurgents was both “unwinnable” and “futile.”

Recent opinion polls have suggested that Australians are tiring of the distant conflict, especially after the deaths of three commandos last week.  Sixteen Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

Ms. Gillard has said the alliance with the United States is the cornerstone of Australia’s security policy, pledging to strengthen during her tenure. The prime minister’s newly-appointed deputy, Wayne Swan, will represent Australia at a G20 meeting in Canada set to open this weekend.

Obama Arrives in Toronto for Summit Meetings

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Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) welcome U.S. President Barack Obama at the G8 Summit at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario, June 25, 2010.

New York Times
June 25, 2010

TORONTO — President Obama arrived here Friday for back-to-back meetings of world leaders that will test international unity on how to restore global economic growth.

After landing, Mr. Obama quickly boarded a helicopter for a G-8 meeting in Muskoka, Ontario, about 100 miles to the north. Less than five hours before his arrival, Congressional negotiations reached agreement on sweeping legislation to overhaul the architecture of financial regulations, an accomplishment that gives momentum to his role at the meetings of the Group of 8 and the Group of 20 countries.

“We need to act in concert for a simple reason: This crisis proved, and events continue to affirm, that our national economies are inextricably linked,” Mr. Obama said on the White House lawn before leaving for Toronto.

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the Unites States was “leading the world in dealing with the financial system.”

But the world’s richest countries find themselves divided on several areas that require global coordination, including proposals to tax giant banks and impose tougher capital and liquidity requirements on them.

Perhaps the biggest area of potential disagreement is when and how indebted countries, including the United States, should pull back the extraordinary spending programs they undertook to revive their economies.

In a letter last week, Mr. Obama cautioned that countries should not withdraw spending too quickly.

“We must be flexible in adjusting the pace of consolidation and learn from the consequential mistakes of the past when stimulus was too quickly withdrawn and resulted in renewed economic hardships and recession,” he wrote.

But in an essay published Friday in The Globe and Mail, Britain’s new prime minister, David Cameron, argued that reining in deficits was essential to promoting economic growth.

“Of course, there must be the flexibility for countries to act, taking account of their own national circumstances,” Mr. Cameron, the Conservative leader of Britain’s first coalition government since 1945, wrote. “But I believe we must each start by setting out plans for getting our national finances under control.”

While the fiscal question has preoccupied discussion among economists, the Obama administration said this week that the United States and Europe were not in fundamental conflict.

A senior administration official said that American and German officials were largely on the same page about whether the global economy needed stimulus or deficit-cutting over the next year.

“Everybody is for growth,” the official said. Although German officials have been publicly emphasizing the steps they will eventually take to reduce their deficit, the actual cuts they will make in the near term are quite small, the official added; the United States is on course to reduce its deficit significantly faster than Germany in 2011 and 2012.

A crucial issue at the G20 will be whether Europe is pursuing structural reforms — like changing labor rules to make it easier to fire workers — that support the expansion of domestic demand, the official said.

The United States government reacted far more aggressively to the financial crisis than most Europeans governments, including Germany’s, did, according to International Monetary Fund data. The Europeans, for their part, say the United States, as the country where the financial crisis started, had more to do.

The United States will run a larger deficit than Germany in 2010 and 2011 — thus doing more to stimulate the economy than the Germans, economists say. But the United States is also withdrawing its stimulus at a more rapid rate than the Germans, I.M.F. numbers show.

The G-20 meeting that will begin here Saturday will also test the leaders’ resolve in reaching a consensus on new bank capital standards by November, when the G-20 leaders are to meet again in Seoul, South Korea.

Several of the G-20 countries have new leaders who will be encountering Mr. Obama for the first time. Along with Mr. Cameron, Japan’s new prime minister, Naoto Kan, and Australia’s, Julia Gillard, the first woman to occupy the position, will meet with Mr. Obama for the first time since taking office. Both Mr. Kan and Ms. Gillard took office this month, Ms. Gillard just this week.

Canada, Australia and Japan have expressed reservations about proposals supported by the United States and Europe for a global bank tax, but the recent changes in governments complicate that picture.

Kazuo Kodama, a spokesman for Japan’s Foreign Ministry, said here on Friday morning that “a one-size-fits-all approach may not be productive,” but said it was not accurate to characterize Japan’s new government as being opposed to a bank tax.

The G-8 leaders will meet in a lakeside lodge in the village of Huntsville. In meetings and over dinner, the G-8 leaders will discuss poverty alleviation — a topic that global relief organizations say has been largely neglected during the economic crisis. Mr. Obama will return to Toronto on Saturday.

Mr. Obama will have at least six one-on-one meetings with other leaders. But except for Mr. Cameron, all of the confirmed bilateral meetings so far are with Asian leaders — Mr. Kan of Japan, Hu Jintao of China, Manmohan Singh of India, Lee Myung-bak of South Korea and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia — in a reflection of Asia’s role in leading the global economic recovery.