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G-8 Leaders Issue Statement on Energy


Group-of-Eight foreign ministers opened their meeting at the G-8 summit by discussing host country Russia's Number-One agenda item, energy security. Meanwhile, anti-globalization protesters have criticized police tactics in keeping them far from the official meeting site.

Group of Eight foreign ministers approved a first statement on global energy security that acknowledges differences over nuclear energy and climate change.

At a meeting with youth leaders earlier at Constantine Palace, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his belief that the world needs to diversify its global energy resources. He also praised the young leaders for concluding that nuclear energy is, in his words, a safe and viable resource still waiting to be tapped.

Nuclear energy is seen as a viable alternative energy source by some, because, they say it does not produce polluting greenhouse gasses, but others warn nuclear power plants could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks, or used to convert nuclear fuel to weapons-grade material.

The ministers also unified their positions on two other summit agenda items - education and the fight against infectious diseases. But the afternoon sessions are likely to veer away from the official agenda, with attention focused on violence in the Middle East and the stand-off over Iran's nuclear program.

Western concerns over what is seen as a Russian retreat on democratic reforms may also be raised. At a late-night news conference Saturday, President Putin reiterated that Russia would find its way to democracy in its own way and in its own time.

"All that I am doing aims at making all of this process of democratization and setting our market economy irreversible in the Russian Federation," he said. "Beyond that, it is also a question of putting in place the conditions required for the Russian people to make their own free choice. It is not I. It is the Russian people. And I am sure, the Russian people will show themselves to be reliable allies, reliable partners, and will not disappoint the other members of the G8."

Russian civil society groups and some members of the U.S. Congress are urging Western leaders to take a tougher stance on democracy during their talks with President Putin. They say all vestiges of civil society and political opposition in Russia have been virtually negated.

Meanwhile, activists say police have detained nearly 40 anti-globalization protesters. The protesters have been kept far from the summit site.

The director of Moscow's Institute of Globalization Studies, Boris Kagarlitsky, is among the activists. He says the police have gone too far.

"Let me say quite honestly, the measures by the authorities were absolutely appalling. There were dozens of people who were detained, arrested, Said Kagarlitsky. "In some cases, passports were destroyed. In some cases, people were arrested for like 10 days with very strange and sometimes funny charges and so on. Especially as all these people arrested were only planning to participate in peaceful protests."

Russian officials and law enforcement deny they are in any way hindering the activists.

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