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Protests Increase as Informal G8 Talks Begin

German police used water cannons to disperse protesters around the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, where leaders of the G8 group of major industrial nations began informal discussions Wednesday ahead of their formal summit opening on Thursday. VOA's Sonja Pace is near the conference site and has this report.

Protest organizers spread the word of anti-G8 activities for the day - telling activists to fan out.

According to German police, thousands of them did just that - blocking roads leading from the airport in the nearby city of Rostock toward the summit site of Heiligendamm on the coast.

Nearly 10,000 protestors swarmed toward the 12-kilometer-long security fence set up by police to cordon off the summit area. Some demonstrators bombarded the police with stones - police responded with water cannons to drive them back.

Despite the protests, heads of state and government arrived throughout the day, holding a series of informal meetings at Heiligendamm ahead of Thursday's official summit opening.

Summit host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, met with U.S. President George Bush over lunch. Afterward, Mrs. Merkel said she hoped the summit would send a strong signal on important commitments.

Mrs. Merkel spoke specifically about climate change and the alleviation of poverty in Africa as main themes at this summit.

She said she and Mr. Bush had agreed in many areas, while work remained to be done in others.

Mrs. Merkel has made reining in global warming a cornerstone of her leadership of the G8. She would like to reach agreement on benchmark caps to greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming.

Mr. Bush does not want to commit to mandatory benchmarks and instead wants to work toward an agreement that will be in place when the current international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012.

"I … come with a strong desire to work with you on a post-Kyoto agreement about how we can achieve major objectives - one of course is the reduction of greenhouse gases, another is to become more energy independent," he said.

The United States did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, and Mr. Bush has now proposed his own plan to curb global warming. He wants to get the countries that emit the most greenhouse gases to negotiate a reduction strategy by the end of next year. This would include emerging economies such as India and China.

Mr. Bush spoke of the need to further help Africa.

"I come with a deep desire to make sure that those suffering from HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa know that they'll get help from the G8," he said. "I come with a deep desire to work with people around the table to reduce malaria on the continent of Africa and feed the hungry."

While at the summit, Mr. Bush will also be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin - at a time of heightened tensions between United States and Russia over the U.S. proposal to build a missile defense system in Europe.