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G-8 Summit Closes Monday

Leaders of the world's largest industrialized nations wrap up their annual summit Monday. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, this year's meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia has been dominated by concern over continuing Middle East violence.

Before the summit's conclusion, President Bush holds bilateral talks with the leaders of India and Brazil. They were invited to St. Petersburg in keeping with a tradition of including some states outside the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.

G-8 host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, had hoped to focus this summit on energy security, fighting infectious disease and education. He did get statements on those issues, including one acknowledging differences over nuclear energy and climate change.

But much of the talks so far have involved violence in the Middle East - Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon in response to the kidnapping by Islamic militants of Israeli soldiers and rocket attacks into Israel from Lebanon.

In a statement, G-8 leaders called for the return of the kidnapped soldiers and an end to the shelling as well as a halt to Israeli military operations. In addition, the statement also called for an early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the release of detained Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians.

The G-8 leaders said extremist forces and those who support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict. While not mentioned by name, U.S. officials say that is a reference to Syrian and Iranian support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

G-8 leaders did not call for an immediate ceasefire, which President Bush opposes. Instead, they called on Israel to be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions as it exercises its right to self-defense.

They asked Israel to exercise utmost restraint by avoiding casualties among innocent civilians and any acts that would destabilize the Lebanese government.