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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 03:15 GMT 04:15 UK
World leaders gather in the Rockies
Gerhard Schroeder, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, George W Bush
Controversial US steel tariffs will be discussed
The leaders of the world's most powerful industrial nations - the G8 - have begun gathering in Canada in preparation of their annual summit.

The leaders of the US, Japan, Canada, France and Britain have already arrived and they will later be joined by their counterparts from Germany, Italy and Russia.

Launch new window : An unequal world
In pictures: Global poverty statistics
The two-day meeting, where the leaders will discuss plans to fight poverty in Africa and revive the world economy, is being held in the small Canadian mountain resort of Kananaskis.

The Canadian authorities have mounted an elaborate security operation to ensure that there is no repeat of the violence and demonstrations that occurred at last year's G8 summit in Italy.

Correspondents say that although Britain and Canada have been pushing to ensure Africa remains at the top of the summit agenda there is likely to be some discussion of the latest developments in the Middle East.

Divided opinion

Japan's youthful prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, was among the first to be flown in via helicopter to the tiny mountain retreat after first landing at Calgary International Airport.

Rioters burned cars used as barricades during violent clashes in Genoa
Organisers hope to avoid a repeat of Genoa's riots

He was followed by US President George W Bush, who arrived after touring fire-ravaged Arizona, where 300,000 acres are in flames.

Major differences are expected to emerge between the United States and a group of European countries, with Britain, France and Germany urging a substantial increase in aid for African development.

Tony Blair is due to meet Mr Bush on Wednesday to discuss aid plans.

The two men will also talk about the growing dispute over trade issues, after the US imposed tariffs on foreign steel imports.

Tight security

The leaders, including Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, France's newly re-elected President Jacques Chirac, and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder, will be cloistered in two luxury hotels high up the Rocky Mountains.
Canadian police officers atop an office tower as part of security operations for the G7 finance ministers meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Security was tight at the recent preliminary meetings

They will be guarded by thousands of police within a 20 mile security zone and there will be a single road into the resort with 16 checkpoints.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will complete the G8 group of countries when he arrives on Wednesday.

The unprecedented security arrangements stem from a fear of anti-globalisation protests, which turned violent at last year's G8 summit in Genoa and resulted in the death of a protester.

But so far the demonstrations - which are taking place in Calgary, 60 miles (100 kilometres) away - have been small and peaceful.

Canada is hoping that the intimate nature of the gathering will facilitate frank discussion by the world leaders.

Terrorism and Middle East

They will be joined by four key African presidents on the last day of the summit on Thursday, including South African President Thabo Mbeki.

The Africans are hoping for endorsement of their New Economic Partnership for Africa (Nepad) plan.

This involves the gradual transfer of $65bn in fresh private and public resources to Africa over the next decade in return for improved governance and an attack on corruption.

Africa has fallen further behind the rest of the world in the last two decades, as falling commodity prices, wars, and the ravages of diseases such as HIV/Aids have hurt economic growth.

But the United States is likely to attach more importance to continuing the fight against terrorism - and Mr Bush will have to address concerns among Europeans about extending the war to Iraq and other countries.

Mr Bush has already moved unilaterally with his plan for peace in the Middle East, and his call for the Palestinians to replace Mr Arafat will be not welcomed by all.

In the balance

The leaders will also discuss the current state of the world economy, which is expected to come out of recession in the second half of the year.

But there is uncertainty about the strength of the recovery in the United States, while Japan's economy is in a fragile state, with a huge burden of public debt and little growth despite near-zero interest rates.

Worries about the US recovery have contributed to a slide in the dollar and heavy falls on US stock markets in recent weeks, which have exacerbated trade tensions.

Japan in particular would like a weaker yen to help its recovery.

But the leaders are expected to reject calls for currency co-ordination, the focus of G8 summits in the l980s, and urge Japan to push forward its own reforms instead.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Plenty of pomp and ceremony for the G8 leaders as they arrived"
International Development Secretary Clare Short
"This is a very important opportunity"
Oxfam's Oliver Buston
"We are campaining... for an education initiative"

Key stories

Aid debate

Africa's future





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