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World Leaders Meet for G-8 Summit in France - 2003-06-01


American President George W. Bush has joined other leaders from the world's top industrialized nations and Russia for a summit in the French Alpine resort of Evian. The first item on their agenda was a working lunch with counterparts from several developing countries on issues relating to poverty and disease.

Mr. Bush flew in for the G-8 summit, after attending the 300th anniversary celebrations of Russia's second city, St. Petersburg.

While there, he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to continue working together on international security threats, despite their disagreements over the Iraq war. But they barely concealed their differences over Russian aid to Iran's nuclear program.

Now, Mr. Bush is being hosted by another leader who opposed his war in Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac.

In their first meeting since the war, the two men shook hands and smiled for the cameras on the terrace of the Hotel Royal, the G-8 summit site.

Although both men have said they are looking forward to working together, diplomats from the two countries acknowledge that the disagreements of the past have not been forgotten.

All eyes, then, will be on the chemistry between the two leaders when they hold a brief, one-on-one meeting on Monday.

Mr. Chirac wants the Evian summit to reach out to the developing world. So, he invited U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the leaders of emerging countries, such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, and the heads of major international organizations to a working lunch with the G-8 leaders.

The French president made sure that the summit's first day would focus on development issues. He scheduled another meeting between the G-8 leaders and the leaders of five African counties that will concentrate exclusively on African matters. Mr. Chirac is pushing for a G-8 effort to ensure that half of Africa's population gets access to clean drinking water in the years ahead.

But Mr. Bush, too, is expected to urge his G-8 colleagues to match U.S. efforts to fund the fight against AIDS, which has hit Africa particularly hard.

As the leaders were meeting, anti-globalization demonstrators gathered in nearby towns to protest the summit. But thousands of French and Swiss police are making sure that the demonstrators will not even come close to Evian.