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Center-Left Leaders Address Global Issues at Summit in Hungary - 2004-10-15

Nearly a dozen heads of state and government from around the world have concluded a meeting in Hungary marked by apparent disagreement over the U.S.-led war in Iraq. But the leaders were able to agree on how to fight the war on terrorism. South Korea's Prime Minister used the meeting to express concern over North Korea's nuclear program.

Speaking at the 6th Progressive Governance meeting of center-left leaders, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae chan said he was concerned about growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan have been conducting talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but little progress has been made. Speaking through an interpreter, the South Korean prime minister urged North Korea and the U.S. to show more patience to resolve this issue.

"I think that six way talks and through multi-lateralism of the United Nations is the approach to solve the North Korean nuclear issue," said the prime minister. "Just think when the North Koreans or the United States say there is collision or there is a clash, then this will have a devastating impact on the Korean peninsula. So we need to prevent such a situation and in order to do that we need to have patience and continue to engage in dialogue. And this is the right way to resolve this issue."

Other leaders attending the summit agreed with the South Korean leader. However there was disagreement on another crucial issue, Iraq, behind close doors.

Only Hungary reportedly sided with British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he defended the war to topple Saddam Hussein.

The Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, was quoted as saying that the war had been a "massive mistake." British officials have denied the dispute was the reason why Mr. Blair did not attend a final press briefing.

The leaders did agree that the war against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction can not be won by military means only. Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said fighting poverty is the best weapon in the battle against extremism.

"It is not only about sending troops, that is also important. But the day after when the troops have left, you need a doctor, you need a teacher, you need a policeman, and you need construction workers," he explained. "We need to discuss how to support good economic development in many poor countries. They are a breeding ground in poverty for those who want to recruit to movements who are of (a) fundamentalist character."

That is why the government leaders agreed to focus on aid to developing countries during next years' summit in South Africa. South African President Thabo Mbeki spoke of a historic opportunity.

"All of the previous summits have taken place in Europe. We meet for the first time in Africa. And was felt by everybody that this would then give us a chance to focus on these development challenges, not exclusively, but we will give a greater amount of time to these matters," he said.

The summit in Hungary marked the first time the gathering was hosted by a country once sealed off behind the Iron Curtain.