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Bush Facing Rebuffs On Key Issues at G-8

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President Bush is attending his last G-8 where the focus of the first day of meetings is Africa. Climate change and the global food crisis are also expected to top the agenda at the annual summit. Video by AP

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By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

RUSUTSU, Japan, July 8 -- President Bush has worked hard over the past few years to cultivate good relations with many world leaders, but as a summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations got underway Monday, he was once again discovering the limitations of those efforts.

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Bush is pushing here for a new round of sanctions against Zimbabwe and a strong statement from fellow G-8 leaders slamming President Robert Mugabe for his thuggish actions in the recent election -- but he encountered public resistance from a friend attending the gathering, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

Several G-8 leaders were also reported to be mounting last-minute opposition to a U.S. initiative to publicize their progress in meeting assistance goals for Africa. And Germany, among other U.S. allies, has been resisting Bush's approach on climate change, according to officials and environmental advocates familiar with negotiations to develop a long-term goal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Things may all work out fine for the president and his agenda by the time his meetings here conclude Wednesday. But the situation underscores not only Bush's lame-duck status but the powerful domestic considerations in each member country that complicate efforts to forge agreements on AIDS in Africa, global warming, Zimbabwe and economic issues.

On Tuesday morning, Bush met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he has developed a warm and, by many accounts, constructive personal relationship, and whom he hosted at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., last fall. But Merkel's flexibility is circumscribed on global warming.

"For the Germans, Bush is extremely unpopular, and for the Germans no issue is more important than climate change," said Daniel S. Benjamin, director of the Europe program at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. "That's an issue in which she doesn't have a lot of latitude or interest in appearing too cozy."

After meeting with Bush, Merkel told reporters that she is "very satisfied" with the work the G-8 is doing on climate change. There were reports Tuesday morning that the summit participants had agreed on new language on global warming, but it was unclear how far the statement would go in committing the nations to cut emissions.

There is little doubt some of the G-8 countries intend to wait Bush out on global warming, confident that they will get a better deal from John McCain or Barack Obama when it comes time to conclude negotiations on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, the global warming deal of 1997.

But Bush aides argue that it would be a miscalculation to assume that even a Democratic president would take a different view on one of Bush's major objectives here -- making sure China and other developing countries are included in any new climate change pact.

"Given current emission trends, an agreement that did not have that kind of participation by all major economies would likely be politically unacceptable and would certainly be environmentally ineffective," said Daniel M. Price, the top White House aide handling issues at the G-8 summit.

After a day of preliminaries, the main event began Tuesday with a round of working sessions devoted to the world economic slowdown, development in Africa, climate change and political issues.

With the world facing some of its biggest challenges in years, including the escalating cost of oil and food, many of the key leaders arriving here are deeply unpopular and face intense domestic pressures that complicate efforts to address those issues.


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