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Bush Arrives for G-8 Summit Amid Protests and Policy Differences


President Bush is in the German Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm for the three-day summit of the G-8 group of the world's leading industrial nations. The summit opens Wednesday amid protests and policy differences, as VOA's Sonja Pace reports from near Heiligendamm.

Air Force One touched down as scheduled in the northern German city of Rostock. The president and Mrs. Bush immediately boarded a helicopter for the short flight to Heiligendamm on the coast.

The protesters were not far away. They have been gathering in the area for days, hoping to make their presence known and felt.

Some are against globalization, some against the Iraq war, some belong to anarchist organizations. Authorities estimate about 100,000 protesters have gathered in Rostock and the vicinity. A pervasive police presence in the area is designed to keep them from reaching the summit site.

The summit opens Wednesday as German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosts her counterparts from Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia. Also here for discussions are the leaders of China, India, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and other African nations.

Mrs. Merkel would like to see agreement on benchmark limits to emissions that are blamed for global warming, but the United States and some other countries are reluctant to commit themselves to that.

The summit is likely to be overshadowed by rising tensions between the United States and Russia over Washington's proposal to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Bush Administration says the system is necessary to thwart possible attacks from countries such as Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin dismisses that and says the missile system is a threat to Russia.

Speaking in the Czech capital earlier Tuesday, President Bush said Russia has nothing to fear.

"Russia's not our enemy," said President Bush. "The enemy of a free society such as ours would be a radical or extremist or rogue regime trying to blackmail the free world in order promote its ideological objectives. And so my attitude on missile defense, not my attitude, this is the truth, it is a purely defensive measure aimed not at Russia but at true threats."

But President Bush also chastised the Russian leader for not following through on promised democratic reforms. The two leaders are to meet for bilateral talks during the summit.

A renewed commitment of aid to Africa and debt relief for the continent are also major priorities at this G8 summit. G8 members promised increased assistance for Africa at their summit in Scotland two years ago, but aid experts say many of those promises have not been fulfilled.

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