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World Leaders Gather in US for Summit - 2004-06-07

The summit of leaders from the world's major economic powers and Russia begins Tuesday in Sea Island, Georgia - a luxurious Atlantic Ocean resort.

It is a meeting that will focus on Iraq, the Middle East, and terrorism as well as several economic issues. Six of the eight summit leaders were together in Normandy on Sunday for ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day and most, like President Bush, are coming directly from France to the southern United States. The Group of Eight is comprised of the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia and the four largest West European countries, the UK, Germany, France and Italy.

U.S. presidential advisor Condoleezza Rice says the participants have a full agenda for their three days of meetings, that begin with an informal dinner Tuesday evening.

"You can expect the G-8 leaders this week to agree to take new actions, to promote freedom, democracy and prosperity in the broader Middle East, to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to strengthen international cooperation in the war on terror, to expand global peacekeeping efforts, to promote global economic growth and expand trade."

The summit takes place amid tight security with world media being kept far away from the Sea Island resort.

President Bush hopes that this meeting will endorse the U.S.-led initiative to promote democratic reform in the Mideast and Islamic world. He has invited leaders from several Arab countries plus Turkey and Afghanistan to meet with the G-8 leaders on Wednesday. On Thursday several leaders from African countries will join the summit to discuss debt and trade issues.

This year's summit provides an opportunity to repair transatlantic relations which last year were badly strained over the Iraq war. G-8 members Germany, France and Russia broke with the United States and Britain and opposed the war. Relations have improved in recent months but French President Jacques Chirac says it would be a mistake to assume that differences have been resolved.