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Climate Change Tops Agenda as G-8 Summit Opens in Germany


Leaders of the world's leading industrial nations got down to business after Thursday morning's official opening of the G 8 summit in the German Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm. Economic issues and climate change top the agenda on this first of two days of official working sessions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greeted her counterparts in front of a sea of clicking cameras at Heiligendamm's fashionable conference center.

The first official working session got under way as Mrs. Merkel hosted the leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, the United States and Japan, as well as the head of the European Commission.

The leaders also held a discussion session with young people from each member nation and a young man from Tanzania, to represent the developing world.

Questions and suggestions covered a variety of global issues ranging from education and energy conservation, to poverty and the fight against AIDS.

Many of the G 8 leaders have been meeting with each other for bilateral sessions even before the summit officially opened and some of those talks have been carefully watched.

U.S. President George Bush met with Mrs. Merkel on Wednesday, and Thursday morning with Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair.

How to deal with global warming is a key theme of this summit and Mr. Bush's every word has been followed closely. He has not endorsed Mrs. Merkel's position to set benchmark limits to greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. Mr. Bush instead stressed his own proposal to bring all major gas emitters together for a long term strategy when the current international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012.

"I see our role as a bridge between people in Europe and others and India and China. If you want them at the table, it's important to give them an opportunity to set an international goal."

President Bush maintains that in order to have any viable agreement, emerging industrial economies such as India and China must be a part of it.

Critics fear, however, that Mr. Bush is stalling to avoid agreeing to specific emissions limits.

Britain's Tony Blair, however thinks there is a closing of the gap.

"There is a very substantial coming together around the need to make sure that we have a substantial reduction in emissions and find the right process and way that we can achieve that."

This is Mr. Blair's last G-8 summit as prime minister before he steps down on June 27th.

Another main theme at this summit is alleviation of poverty, debt relief and aid for Africa. That is on the agenda for Friday.

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