G8 leaders to reach compromise amid anti-summit protests and claims for help

As Scottish police allowed a protest march to proceed near G8 venue Gleneagles after hesitation induced by fears that public safety could not be guaranteed, while the leaders of the Group of Eight nations began arriving Wednesday at this posh golf resort for three days of annual discussions scheduled to begin over dinner.

Protesters who have vowed to disrupt the summit were already in place. A group of about 100 activists smashed car windows, threw rocks and attempted to blockade one of the main roads.

World leaders scaled back goals for relieving African poverty and combating global warming under U.S. opposition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's ambitious objectives.

Leaders' aides met behind closed doors on the two issues Blair has made the main focus of this year's meeting - support for Africa, the globe's poorest continent, and increasing efforts to deal with the pollution that scientists believe is linked to planet warming.

Blair challenged G8 countries to double aid to Africa from a current total of US$25 billion (Ђ21.04 billion) to US$50 billion (Ђ42.08 billion) by 2010 and to increase giving for all foreign aid to the equivalent of 0.7 percent of national incomes by 2015.

Bush, after initially resisting Blair's call, announced last Thursday that he would seek to double U.S. aid by 2010, to US$8.6 billion (Ђ7.24 billion) from US$4.3 billion (Ђ3.62 billion) in 2004. But Bush opposes the 0.7 percent target. Anti-poverty activists said that Bush's goal of $8.6 billion fell about US$6 billion (Ђ5.05 billion) short of what was needed from the United States to meet Blair's target.

As a consequence, the final communique was expected to drop any reference to a US$50 billion goal in favor of talk more generally of a "doubling" of assistance.

Bush, stopping in Denmark on the way to Scotland, warned he would emphasize the need for African nations to commit to good governance in order to get increased support.

"I don't know how we can look our taxpayers in the eye and say, this is a good deal to give money to countries that are corrupt," he said. "What were interested in ... is helping people and, therefore, we have said that we'll give aid, absolutely, we'll cancel debt, you bet. But we want to make sure that the governments invest in their people, invest in the health of their people, the education of their people, and fight corruption."

The differences were even starker on global warming. Blair wanted a plan to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But U.S. officials lobbied to prevent the inclusion in the G8 communique of any specific reduction targets as called for in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The United States is the only G8 country that has refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty, with Bush saying that doing so would have "wrecked" the U.S. economy.

Children from the world's wealthiest nations urged their leaders to work at the G8 summit for universal primary education, reduce maternal mortality and tackle HIV and AIDS.

In a written statement presented to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Gleneagles Hotel, site of the summit, the 14- to 16-year-olds also asked leaders to work for greater energy efficiency and more investment in renewable energy, including wind and solar power.

The 95 youngsters on Wednesday completed their own three-day mini summit, dubbed the J-8 for Junior 8, in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. They heard from academics and experts on Africa and climate change, and took part in discussions and workshops.

In London Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a speech prepared for delivery at St. Paul's Cathedral that the summit was a "make or break moment" for hopes of alleviating world poverty in the coming decade.


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