London blasts upstage G8 summit

The world’s most powerful leaders got down to talks in Gleneagles, Scotland, on Thursday on aid to Africa and climate change, but the summit was brutally overshadowed by a series of explosions that caused casualties and at least two deaths in London.

A dark and tense mood redolent of September 11 2001 swept over the Gleneagles hotel, the Scottish golfing resort where the Group of Eight (G8) leaders are meeting with the heads of five developing nations to discuss the planet’s long-term problems.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to make a live televised statement from the G8 summit, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Grim-looking police, brought up from London to add security to the summit, gazed at TV pictures of a gutted bus in the British capital and a rolling newsflash about casualties. A previously packed media centre emptied as hundreds of journalists rushed to catch planes and trains to London.

The apparently coordinated string of explosions around London’s transport system occurred just as the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States began formal talks.

They were being joined by the heads of state or government from Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

The summit was scheduled later on Thursday to produce a communiqué and a so-called Gleneagles Plan of Action on climate change.

But details that leaked from the talks suggested both documents would be bland, in deference to US demands for a voluntary rather than a binding approach for tackling greenhouse gases.

US President George Bush on Thursday reiterated his opposition to the United Nations’s Kyoto Protocol climate pact as too costly and unfair for the American economy.

The deal expires in 2012.

“Now it is time to get beyond the Kyoto period and develop a strategy that is inclusive not only of the US but also with developing nations,” Bush said after a meeting with Blair.

Bush said there is a “consensus to move forward together”. But he reiterated his long-standing demands that a global warming treaty include developing countries such as China and India, which are currently excluded from Kyoto provisions requiring specific pollution cuts.

“The way to move forward together is to recognise, one, there is a problem, which I have since I have been the president; two, that there’s a constructive way to deal with the problem,” the US leader said.

“The most constructive way to deal with the problem from our perspective is to not only include the US in discussions, but also include developing countries in discussion, countries like India and China,” he said.

Asked whether he has changed his stance, Bush said: “My position has been pretty steady.”

Bush opposes Kyoto’s call for a cap on carbon pollution, declaring that this would be ruinously expensive for the US economy, which is chronically dependent on oil, gas and coal.

Blair, who has placed progress on combating climate change and boosting development to aid Africa at the heart of the three-day summit, appeared to acknowledge that a hard-hitting statement from Gleneagles is unlikely.
Africa will be the main topic on Friday.

“There is no point going over the Kyoto debate,” he said.

“We’re not going to negotiate some new treaty on climate change here at the G8 meeting. All it is about is seeing whether it would be possible in the future to bring people back into consensus in the future.”—Sapa-AFP

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