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In pre-G8 talks, Franco-British concord on climate change and Iran

Text by Vaila FINCH

Latest update : 2009-07-08

A seemingly united Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy promised cooperation on climate change and the world economy at a Franco-British summit in the French town of Evian on Monday, ahead of the G8 summit on July 8.

With their “entente formidable” and smiles appearing to signal an end to earlier antagonisms between their two countries, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France promised continued close cooperation on the world economy and climate change as they met in the French Alpine town of Evian-les-Bains on Monday to prepare for the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy on July 8-10.

Visibly on very friendly terms, the two leaders agreed to push for a firm deal on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to replace the Kyoto agreement at the United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

“We will both fight for the ambitions of the G8 in terms of development and the fight against global warming should be tough, intense,” said President Sarkozy.

The 27 European Union member states have already agreed to cut emissions to 20 percent lower than 1990 levels by 2020. Brown and Sarkozy will be looking to convince Obama to commit to a more ambitious target than the 17 percent Washington is aiming at.

World economic growth

Despite their different handling of the economic crisis, both leaders underlined the urgency of repairing the world economy.

“We will not be satisfied with long-term objectives; we want mid-term objectives in order to ensure their credibility. We think 2009 will be a decisive year for regulation and for new global governance, and we will make things change together,” said Sarkozy.

The way out of the financial crisis, according to the two, is investing in industries capable of growth, including biotechnology, the digital industry and nuclear and low-carbon technologies.

Brown reiterated his warning to leaders at the G20 summit in November against complacency over the state of the world economy, calling for increased bank lending to help industries recover and “more responsibility and a fairer approach to economic management”.

It was time to get tough, the two leaders agreed, on the financial sector and to ban tax havens.

“The writing is on the wall for tax havens, wherever they may be,” said Brown, giving March 2010 as a deadline date for regulations to be imposed. “Today that countdown has begun,” he said.

President Sarkozy also reiterated that he desired an end to the executive-bonus culture.

Solidarity on Iran

The touchy subject of Iran did not go unaddressed. Just days after the detention of British embassy staff in Tehran, Sarkozy offered his support to Brown, saying he was “shocked” at the attacks on the British government by Iranians. Brown called the expulsion of embassy staffers “unjustified”.

“If this action continues we will be forced to act, and we will act together with our European partners,” Brown warned.

The two leaders appeared to be on good terms.

“Relations between Britain and France have never been better,” Brown confidently declared. The British prime minister congratulated President Sarkozy on his leadership of the EU presidency and for his role in the G8 and G20, warmly telling the French leader he was “truly a force of nature”.

G8 agenda

Among the main subjects up for discussion at the G8 will undoubtedly be climate change, rising oil prices and the continued response to the global financial crisis, expected to be looked at in greater detail at the next G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September.

The run-up to the G8 meeting in L’Aquila has not been as smooth as host Italy would have liked, with a second earthquake plus several aftershocks in the town on Friday raising questions over the safety of the venue.

Heavily damaged by an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale in April, L’Aquila was chosen as the venue for the summit in attempt to quell habitual anti-G8 protests.

The memory of violent clashes between protestors and police back in 2001 in Genoa, which saw one man killed by a policeman, has also clouded the event.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has also been plagued by the media in recent weeks following allegations about his sex life and use of escorts.

The G8 is comprised of the world’s richest economies: France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia.

Date created : 2009-07-06