July 16, 2006

G8 leaders face packed final day

By Michael Steen

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Leaders of the major
world powers face a packed agenda including trade talks and a
possible statement on world oil prices on Monday, the last day
of a G8 summit overshadowed by violence in the Middle East.

Sunday's proceedings were dominated by high diplomacy as
leaders met a pressing need to formulate a response to the
escalating violence in the Middle East, where Israel has bombed
Lebanon in retaliation for attacks by Hizbollah militants.

Meetings on Monday should cover missed ground, producing a
possible comment on high world oil prices to calm volatile
markets and on the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The presence of the leaders of five key developing
countries invited to the summit in Russia's second city of St.
Petersburg -- Brazil, India, China, Mexico and South Africa --
will force stalled world free trade negotiations back on to the

The G8 powers have asked their trade negotiators and World
Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy to broker a breakthrough
on the stalled Doha round of talks.

Having called for a "concerted effort" to conclude the Doha
round by the end of 2006, they will present their plans to the
five developing nations on Monday.

Assistance to Africa, put at the top of last year's summit
by British Prime Minister Tony Blair but initially ignored by
Russia for this year's meeting, is to be discussed during a
session on Monday to be attended by U.N. Secretary General Kofi
Annan and the African Union.

As the summit draws to a close, Russian host, President
Vladimir Putin, will be able to reflect that the meeting had
not cast a critical light on his rule.

Any criticism from President Bush or the leaders of
Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Japan or Italy about a
rolling back of democracy in Russia has been kept securely
behind the scenes.

Putin, the first Russian leader to host the annual
gathering of the Group of Eight industrialized leaders, wanted
the summit to be a showcase for his nation's newfound
confidence as a booming oil and gas producer.

"Russia is satisfied with the results of our work, all of
our goals have been reached," a business-like Putin told a
midnight briefing late on Sunday after the day's talks.

Putin's aides did fail to clinch an agreement on joining
the World Trade Organization to coincide with the G8, but the
crisis in the Middle East allowed the Kremlin leader to focus
on statesmanship at the summit venue in a tsarist-era palace.

And the mass anti-capitalism protests that have become
regular affairs at G8 meetings were notable by their absence in
St. Petersburg -- a consequence, the few protesters who made it
said, of strong-arm tactics by the police.