Shocked G8 leaders rally around after London bombs
By Crispian Balmer
GLENEAGLES, Scotland (Reuters) – World leaders gathered in
Scotland for a high-powered summit reacted with shock, sorrow
and ultimately defiance to news of Thursday’s multiple bomb
attacks in London.
Diplomatic differences were immediately laid aside as the
leaders rallied around their host, British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, well aware that the explosions in far away London were
clearly aimed at them.
“A band of criminal fanatics have made London and England
pay a high price for hosting this meeting,” Italian Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi said.
The leaders of the group of eight industrialized nations
were just arriving for their first meeting of the day with the
leaders of the top five developing nations when word of the
chaos in London started to filter through.
At first, everyone thought it might be a simple rush-hour
accident, but as grim-faced aides ferried in a flurry of notes
it became clear that the mayhem was meditated.
“We all gathered around Tony Blair and offered him our
sympathy … We all urged him to go to London,” Berlusconi
However, the other leaders also unanimously agreed that
they would stay in Scotland and press ahead with their
discussions on climate change, Africa and the world economy.
“We decided we would carry on with the agenda because we
were simply not going to show that the terrorists can win in
any way, shape or form,” said Canadian Prime Minister Paul
French President Jacques Chirac said news of the carnage
had helped to unite the leaders and stiffened their resolve to
“Natural egotism was laid aside,” said Chirac.
The French leader has had a number of highly publicized
run-ins with Blair in the weeks leading to this week’s summit,
but on Thursday he praised the British prime minister for his
handling of the crisis.
“He did what had to be done, as it had to be done, at the
moment it had to be done,” he told reporters, adding that
Blair’s initial consternation had soon turned to determination
to take charge of the crisis.
The heads of state and government discussed the attacks for
about 30 minutes, drawing up a joint statement that denounced
the “barbaric” bombings.
The message was later read out by Blair, flanked by the
leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy,
Canada, Russia, China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa.
“(This was) not an attack on one nation but on all nations
and on civilized people everywhere,” he said.
After Blair flew off to London, the Gleneagles summit
resumed according to script. But minds were clearly elsewhere.
“You can’t compare the atmosphere of this summit to any
other one,” said top German negotiator Bernd Pfaffenbach, a
veteran of such international gatherings.
Elsewhere around the Gleneagles estate, huddles of
journalists, gun-toting police and cleaning staff formed around
television screens to catch the latest from London.
Just 24 hours earlier similar groups had gathered to see
news of the British capital being awarded the 2012 Olympic
“Last night there was a party atmosphere as we celebrated
London being handed the Olympic Games,” Berlusconi said. “This
morning the positive mood turned sad.”
However, the world leaders lined up to stress that the
killings would not distract them from their initial agenda,
which included boosting aid for impoverished Africa and seeking
solutions to the threat of global warming.
“I hope that out of this day, this very, very sad day for
England, London and the whole world, emerges the vision of a
better future and a better world. A world without terrorism and
violence,” said Mexican President Vicente Fox.
(Additional reporting by Sophie Louet, David Ljunggren,
Gernot Heller and Mike Peacock)