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G8 Foreign Ministers Seek Common Ground


The foreign ministers from the so-called G8 group of wealthy nations dealt with a very wide agenda Thursday in London. They sought to strengthen shared approaches to problems that will further be explored by the G8 leaders next month in Gleneagles, Scotland.

The scope of the talks in London was very broad. From supporting Afghanistan to gauging the current state of the North Korean nuclear situation.

The meeting was hosted by Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Afterward, at a joint news conference, Mr. Straw expressed concern about alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and the actions of the country's president, Robert Mugabe.

"Speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom government, we believe that there was a really high responsibility now placed on African leaders not to continue to turn a blind eye to what is going on in Zimbabwe," said Mr. Straw. "If the reports are simply half true, and we believe it will be much more than half true, this is a situation of serious international concern and no government which subscribes to human rights and democracy should allow this kind of thing effectively to go on under their noses."

On the issue of the Middle East and specifically the planned Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip in August, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice underscored that everything must be done to prevent violence from disrupting the planned withdrawal.

"The Palestinians, the regional states and the international community have an obligation to make sure that there is a very clear message that terrorism is not to be tolerated," she said.

Mr. Straw agreed, adding that success in Gaza will help to get the road map process rolling again.

"We in the United Kingdom have been happy to assist not least in helping the Palestinian Authority to strengthen its security. Terrorism remains the single greatest threat to the peaceful disengagement from Gaza and of the great things that could follow from that," Mr. Straw added.

On the issue of Iran's alleged nuclear research program, Ms. Rice stated that Washington was firmly behind the European effort to get Iran to cease all research activities into uranium enrichment.

"We believe that Iran should take advantage of the opportunity that is being provided to them by the European three to give confidence to the international community that they are prepared to live up to their international obligations not to seek a nuclear weapons program under cover of civilian nuclear power," noted Ms. Rice.

Tehran says its research remains frozen for now. Further European-Iranian talks are scheduled to reconvene in July.

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