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G8 summit in quake town to focus on climate and economy

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-07-08

G8 world leaders are meeting in the Italian city of L’Aquila, the epicentre of a powerful and deadly earthquake three months ago, to discuss the teetering global financial system, climate change and unrest in Iran.

G8 leaders meet for a three day summit starting Wednesday in the Italian city of L’Aquila, where over 300 people were killed in a powerful earthquake three months ago.

Shockwaves from the ethnic violence in western China’s Xinjiang region have called Chinese leader Hu Jintao back to Beijing.

But the remaining 24 heads of state will see L’Aquila’s devastation at first hand, before discussing the global financial system, climate change, and unrest in Iran and China.

The G8 – comprising Japan, United States, Russia, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada – was once regarded as the world's premier talking shop, but has found itself overshadowed by the G20 group which includes emerging powers.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has invited the leaders of China, India and Brazil for talks on world affairs to address this shift of balance.

Lurid media coverage

Berlusconi also hopes that in broadening the guest list and choosing the site of a natural disaster for the meeting he will deflect some of the focus away from his private life, which has been subject to increasingly lurid media coverage.

Sorbonne political analyst Professor Philippe Ryfman told FRANCE 24 that L’Aquila was a politically charged choice of venue: “It’s obviously politically motivated,” he said. “It is a political manipulation of the catastrophe’s aftermath. Natural disasters have an intrinsic and strong political dimension.”

While the state of the global economy will dominate proceedings, efforts to combat global warming will also feature prominently on Wednesday's agenda.

The G8 has prepared a draft communiqué calling on global emissions to peak by 2020 and then be "substantially reduced" to peg the rise in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

The Italian premier said he hoped the summit would see the launch of an initiative to raise between 10 and 15 billion dollars to boost food security in poor countries and said a thaw in relations between Washington and Moscow following a trip by US President Barack Obama to Moscow augured well.

Britain and France want the summit to focus on bringing greater stability to the oil market, which has fluctuated wildly over the last 12 monts, with highs of 147 dollars and lows of just 32.

Around 15,000 police have been deployed to prevent a repeat of the violence which marred the last time Italy hosted a G8 summit in 2001, when a protester was shot dead in Genoa.

Evacuation plans are also in place in the event of any major aftershock, which would bring about an immediate cancellation of the gathering.

Hu Jintao goes home

Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short his visit to Italy and left for home early on Wednesday "due to the situation in north-west China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region" the Xinhua news agency reported.

In Rome, the ANSA news agency quoted Tang Heng, the first political counsellor at the Chinese embassy in the Italian capital, as saying Hu decided to curtail his trip "given the worsening of the disorder in Xinjiang."

FRANCE 24’s China correspondent, Joris Zylberman, said Hu was sending out a strong message to the Chinese domestic audience.

“The situation in the Xinjiang region is considered by Beijing to be extremely serious,” he said. “The message is clear – Hu Jintao and the central Chinese government want to get the situation in hand quickly.”

State Councillor Dai Bingguo will take part in the summit on Hu's behalf, Xinhua reported.

Date created : 2009-07-08