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Obama Cites Progress at G8, Raises Questions About Future



U.S. President Barack Obama says progress was made at the just ended Group of Eight Summit in Italy. But at the same time, he is raising questions about the future of the G8, saying it must become more inclusive.

This was Barack Obama's first G8 summit. And he gave the meeting a mixed report card.

He said there was progress in areas ranging from the global economy to climate change. But he admits he is not sure if this small grouping of eight traditional industrial powerhouses remains a proper venue for discussions of global problems.

Speaking to reporters just after the formal sessions ended, Mr. Obama said there was a consensus on the need for further reforms to repair the global economy. He said discussions on climate change helped improve the chances for international negotiations later this year. And he took pride in a new $20 billion initiative to fight hunger in Africa by spurring agriculture.

"We do not view this assistance as an end in itself," President Obama said. "We believe that the purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it is no longer needed."

African development was the dominant theme of the final day of the summit. And throughout the session Mr. Obama stressed the need for Africans to take a greater stake in determining their own future.

He spoke of the need for governments to be more responsive to their people, and to create the kinds of institutions that can ensure needs are met.

President Obama told the gathering it is an issue he takes personally, citing the experiences of his own family. He reminded the summit participants that when his father left Kenya decades ago to study in the United States, the Kenyan economy was growing at a faster pace than South Korea.

"My father traveled to the United States from Kenya a mere fifty years ago and yet now I have family members who live in villages - they themselves are not going hungry - but they live in villages where hunger is real," the president said.

During the session with reporters, Mr. Obama was also asked about the formal G8 statement on Iran, and indications prior to the summit that it might include a call for sanctions.

The president denied that was ever the case, and said he was pleased with the language approved by the G8.

"What we wanted is exactly what we got which is a statement of unity and strong condemnation about the appalling treatment of peaceful protestors post-election in Iran as well as some behavior that just violates basic international norms," he said.

This was President Obama's fourth major international summit in as many months. And as he prepared to leave the talks in the central Italian city of L'Aquila, he admitted it was a bit much.

He wondered aloud if the membership of the G8 is too restrictive, saying it is time to re-evaluate the need for institutions that emerged - as he put it - "in another time and place."

"To have entire continents like Africa and Latin America not adequately represented in these major international forums and decision making bodies is not going to work," President Obama said.

Mr. Obama ended his news conference with a quick goodbye in Italian and hurried to a waiting helicopter for Rome and a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

From there, he heads to Ghana for his first trip to Africa as president of the United States.

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