By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 7, 2005
GLENEAGLES, Scotland, July 6 -- Leaders of the world's eight major industrial powers convened a three-day summit here Wednesday, with President Bush promising to help alleviate suffering in Africa but holding firm against mandatory cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.
As police fended off protesters trying to march on this highlands resort hotel, Bush met with Irish activist rock stars Bono and Bob Geldof to discuss financial assistance to combat poverty, disease and war in Africa. Later, the Group of Eight leaders sat down to a formal dinner with Queen Elizabeth.
A few hours before arriving, Bush sought to defuse international tension over U.S. opposition to the Kyoto accord of 1997, which calls for mandatory reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.
"I recognize that the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem," Bush said during a news conference in Denmark, where he stopped overnight en route to the summit.
But the president also tried to preempt any moves by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other leaders who want the United States, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, to adopt the Kyoto treaty. The United States is the only nation represented at the summit to have rejected it.
Saying the treaty's mandates would cripple the U.S. economy, Bush called instead for a "post-Kyoto era," in which nations work together by sharing new technologies to voluntarily curb greenhouse emissions and ease global warming.
Blair, who is hosting the G-8 summit, wants a strong international agreement that man-made pollutants are contributing to the problem and that mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the prudent solution.
When Blair was asked by reporters if he would compromise with Bush on issues, he said, "You've got to be prepared to hold for what is right."
U.S. officials said the leaders were working on a joint statement that emphasizes common ground on the extent of the climatic problem but stops short of embracing Blair's solution.
The meeting brings together the leaders of the Group of Eight -- the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia.
Discussions are also expected to turn toward Iraq, an issue that unites Blair and Bush but often alienates them from other world leaders. Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking support for greater participation by the United Nations in Iraq and may propose a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Bush has rejected the idea of an exit date.
The leaders plan to discuss the recent kidnapping of the senior Egyptian diplomat in Iraq, as well as what appears to be a new strategy by insurgents to target Muslim diplomats.
In Denmark, Bush addressed his European critics, saying, "I understand that people aren't going to agree with decisions I make. But my job is to make decisions that I think are right, and to lead."
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who came under fire in Europe for supporting U.S. foreign policy, echoed Bush's language when talking about Iraq during a joint news conference. "It's our common desire to spread liberty and promote democracy," Rasmussen said. "We do not accept the thesis that certain peoples and nations are not yet ready for democracy and therefore better suited for dictatorship. We share the belief that freedom is universal, and we share the belief that in the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, you cannot stay neutral."
Denmark has about 500 troops in Iraq.
Bush said that in their private talks, Rasmussen expressed concern about the treatment of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the effect on the U.S. image abroad. Bush said the prisoners were treated respectfully and afforded better accommodations than many criminals in other countries.
As for Danish and other European critics of the detention center, Bush said, "I'd suggest buying an airplane ticket and going down and look -- take a look for yourself."
Before he arrived at the summit, Bush appeared to have eased some of the international concern over U.S. financial assistance to Africa by promising new funds to combat poverty, AIDS and malaria.
Rasmussen, who plans to travel to Africa this year, praised Bush's plan to double aid to Africa, but gently chided the president by pointing out that Denmark contributes a much larger percentage of its gross domestic product to the cause than the United States and other nations do.