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Iran and North Korea Expected to Top Agenda for G-8 Summit


International concern about nuclear weapons programs of Iran and North Korea is expected to be high on the agenda of next week's summit of G-8 leaders in St. Petersburg. Experts say the leaders of the world's seven richest countries and Russia, the so called G-8 group, are also likely to discuss energy security and global cooperation in fighting health threats.

Next week's G-8 summit in St. Petersburg brings together leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

In a joint appearance with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Washington, President Bush indicated nuclear non-proliferation is high on his agenda for the meeting.

"I talked to President Putin this morning, about not only making sure that we not only send messages to the North Koreans, but that our strategy will work with Iranm," said President Bush.

Kenneth Pollack, from the independent public policy group, the Brookings Institution, says the Iranians may feel pressured to respond to an international deal on their nuclear program prior to the summit.

"My guess is what you'll see is them do is give part of that answer, and the part they'll probably try to give is the positive part," said Kenneth Pollack. "They will say, we're willing to accept it in principle, but we can't give you a full answer just yet. We need a little bit more time, hoping that that will be enough to buy off the Russians, Chinese and Europeans, and then they will deliver the bad half of their answer after the G-8 summit is over."

The five permanent U.N. Security Council member countries and Germany have formally offered a proposal to Iran that it end uranium enrichment in return for various incentives, or face punitive action.

Discussing the issue at the G-8 meeting may be immaterial, according to another Brookings scholar, Johannes Linn. He said he feels the G-8 is not an effective forum for leaders to make real global decisions, because some of the key players are missing.

"If you add the current big issues, Iran and North Korea, in terms of non-proliferation, again, how far can you go in resolving, addressing, the issue without China at the table," asked Johannes Linn.

But Brookings' Carlos Pascual says the success of the G-8 summit should not be measured by the number of agreements reached. Rather, he says, the important thing about meetings at this level is that everyone is talking.

"What it points to, I think, is something that is important for these G-8 meetings, to think of them as successful, not if they come up with particular results or outcomes on issues like energy security, because, frankly, I don't think they can come up with a successful outcome on energy security, and it's better not to paper over the differences," said Carlos Pascual.

Other items on the agenda include global cooperation to combat the spread of diseases, such as bird flu or HIV/AIDS.

For the first time ever, Russia hosts this year's summit, which takes place from July 15 to 17, in St. Petersburg.