G-8 leaders discussing Middle East

Russia - World leaders tore up a carefully prepared summit agenda Saturday to turn their attention to a growing crisis in the Middle East.

G-8 leaders discussing Middle East

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was grateful that President Bush came early for bilateral talks that Putin said would allow them to synchronize their watches on a host of world crises and provide a "boost to the G-8 summit."

Putin designed this year's Group of Eight economic summit, the first to be held in Russia, to showcase his country's re-emergence on the world stage after a devastating economic collapse in 1998. He had hoped to focus on energy security, the fight against infectious diseases and education.

But officials were quickly clearing discussion time to address a new explosion of violence in the Middle East. The G-8 countries — the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada — were expected to issue a joint declaration on the Lebanon crisis.Israel's war planes began striking Lebanon after Hezbollah  captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others Wednesday in a cross-border raid into Israel. Since Wednesday, Hezbollah has fired hundreds of rockets at northern Israel.

The summit was to begin with an opulent dinner Saturday night with the other G-8 leaders arriving throughout the day.

Bush called the leaders of Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan on his way here in a search for ways to end three days of furious fighting. Bush appealed for their help to end the conflict, but has not spoken directly with Israeli leaders. He has said Israel has a right to defend itself.

Other summit leaders have condemned what they see as an overreaction on the part of Israel that has caused dozens of civilian deaths and risked a major escalation of bloodshed in the Middle East.

Despite the split, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the differences between the United States and Russia on how to deal with the new Middle East crisis were not that great.

"Both Russia and the United States call for an end to these bombardments and an end to these attacks, whichever side of the conflict they are coming from," Peskov told reporters Saturday.

But Bush has rejected an appeals for a cease-fire while calling on Israel to limit civilian casualties.

Sergei Prikhodko, Putin's foreign policy adviser, said Russia felt the need to try to reach agreement on a joint declaration on the Middle East, calling the situation "very dangerous and worrying."

Italian Premier Romano Prodi said the "spiral of violence" was an indication that the situation had "regressed 20 years."

French President Jacques Chirac was even harsher in his comments about Israel, saying, "One could ask if today there is not sort of a will to destroy Lebanon, its equipment, its roads, its communications."

Putin said that no hostage-takings were acceptable but "neither is the use of full-scale force in response to these, even if unlawful, actions. ... We will demand that all sides involved in the conflict immediately stop the bloodshed."

Besides the newest Middle East crisis, the G-8 leaders were expected to discuss ways to deal with nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16