July 6, 2005

G8, amid protests, seeks deals on aid and climate

By Sean Maguire

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (Reuters) - Group of Eight
negotiators, barricaded against protesters in a luxury hotel,
sought last-minute deals on Wednesday on climate change and aid
for Africa amid pressure to avoid watered-down compromises.

Celebrity anti-poverty campaigners joined world leaders at
the summit site to press them to double aid to Africa to $50
billion a year, open markets to African goods and cancel debt.

"It's all to play for in the next 24 hours. One last push.
I really do believe we can get the 50 (billion dollars)," said
U2 lead singer Bono, a campaigner for African development.

But diplomats, who met to finalize the texts of communiqu©s
while their leaders ate dinner with Britain's Queen Elizabeth,
said no new money would be committed to Africa, and accords on
climate change would contain no specific targets for action.

"No one is offering more money here. It is a question of
honoring past commitments," said top Italian diplomat Cesare
Ragaglini. He indicated that only Britain and France were
pushing to hit the $50 billion figure for Africa.

Blair dampened expectations for a breakthrough accord on
tackling global warming because of strong United States
opposition to the Kyoto treaty, which requires mandatory caps
on harmful emissions that Washington says will hit its economy.

"What I hope at this summit is that we can set a different
direction of travel that gives us a possibility, when Kyoto
expires in 2012, of getting an international consensus (on
action)," he told Britain's Sky News Television.


G8 leaders were flown by helicopter to the luxury
Gleneagles hotel complex, over the heads of hundreds of
demonstrators who massed against a steel fence protected by
mounted police.

In the town of Stirling, hooded activists smashed car
windows and fought riot police. Others set up impromptu
barricades on the roads around the heavily guarded G8 complex.

Police made 100 arrests as anti-capitalist and anarchist
groups captured the protest spotlight from the hundreds of
thousands who have pressed in peaceful marches for an end to
poverty in Africa.

Diplomats said Blair was likely to trumpet a previously
agreed deal to write off more than $40 billion in debt to 18
mainly sub-Saharan African states, with another 20 countries
potentially eligible later.

Aid agencies argue that is insufficient and will be
disappointed at the failure to get fresh pledges of aid.

Blair has already abandoned an ambitious initiative to fund
long-term development via financial markets, which the leaders
of France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Italy, Canada and the United
States all oppose.


Blair's officials said they were nearing an accord that
recognized climate change as an urgent problem but contained no
specific targets to curb it.

To secure agreement from the United States, the stress will
be on finding a "pathway" to a global accord to succeed the
Kyoto Protocol that will bring in key developing nations.

Bush offered at least a new emphasis in U.S. policy by
acknowledging more explicitly than before that humans were at
least partly to blame for climate change, and said it was in
Washington's interests to respond.

"I recognize the surface of the Earth is warmer, and that
an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is
contributing to the problem," he told a news conference ahead
of the summit.

That apparent softening mollified other G8 nations.

"France ... wants an agreement on this issue and we're
pretty hopeful of reaching one," Jerome Bonnafont, President
Jacques Chirac's spokesman, told reporters. "President Bush's
declarations show that there is movement."

Italy's Ragaglini said measures would be outlined that
could lead to a cut in greenhouse gases:

"There will be no numerical targets in it. It is an action
plan, and represents a first of its kind for the G8."


The opening of the summit was overshadowed by London's
victory over its rival Paris in the race to host the 2012
summer Olympic games.

While personally backing the rival bids, Blair and Chirac
have also been wrangling bitterly over European Union
financing. But Blair denied these tensions would mar the
summit, saying France had given strong backing on climate
change and Africa.

"Whatever differences we have in other areas, in those
areas they have been tremendously helpful, France, even in the
last few days, in trying to get agreement," Blair said.

Rock stars staged a final "Live 8" concert in Edinburgh on
Wednesday night in a last-minute bid to pressure world leaders.

The free gig featured artists including James Brown and
Annie Lennox. Ten other "Live 8" concerts on Saturday across
four continents featured what was billed as the greatest ever
line-up of rock and pop talent.