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EDITIONS
Monday, 24 June, 2002, 07:15 GMT 08:15 UK
Tiny town to host the mighty

It is a location so obscure, it is hard to pinpoint on most maps.

Located at the southern end of the Canadian Rockies, the tiny resort town of Kananaskis is a wildly curious place to hold a summit of world leaders.

Rioters burned cars used as barricades during violent clashes in Genoa
Organisers hope to avoid a repeat of Genoa's riots
And yet, for their purposes, organisers for the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations have chosen an ideal location by which to hold the meetings.

Long tired of noisy protesters - some of who have resorted to bottle throwing and looting - and the intense media scrutiny they bring, the G8 has decamped to a small village in the western Canadian province of Alberta, seeking some peace and quiet.

Limited access

Last year, Canada played host to numerous gatherings of world officials, including the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City and last November's Group of 20 meeting in Ottawa, but none has provided the kind of seclusion afforded in Kananaskis.

It is here where the leaders of the world's eight largest economies - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and US - will gather to hammer out strategies as divergent as alleviating poverty and fighting terrorism.

Given President George W Bush's perceived protectionist bent as well as his go-it-alone stance on international issues, the group may find reaching consensus difficult.

He has alienated his European allies with his calls for tariffs on imports such as steel and for backing out of the Kyoto climate treaty, even as they stand four square behind America in its war against terrorism.

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 Halifax meetings
Meanwhile, leaders of the other nations, such as Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, are just as concerned with boosting aid in Africa and other initiatives to increase foreign investment.

Mr Bush's reluctance to embrace such issues has begun to yield given his need for support of his new non-proliferation initiative.

On Wednesday, the president pledged $500m (334m) to battle Aids in Africa, an effort to soften criticism the US is stingy with its aid to poor nations.

Rocky Mountain wilderness

As Mr Bush, Mr Chretien and the others hash out their differences during their two-day meeting, activists - and the media - will camp out in Calgary, 56 miles northeast of Kananaskis.

At previous meetings of world officials - such as those in Genoa and Seattle in 1999 - demonstrators roared and battled police in protest against international trade and loan programmes to poor nations.

River bed in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
Kananaskis is renowned for its natural beauty
They oppose the policies of the G8, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which anti-globalisation forces say devastate rather then help poor nations.

But protesters will have a tougher time making their presence known at Kananaskis.

Rural, rugged and remote

The secluded village sits within a much larger provincial park region known as Kananaskis Country, or K Country, as the locals call it.

Carved from the Rocky Mountain wilderness the 4,000 square kilometre region was set aside by the Alberta government 30 years ago.

Kananaskis Village is rural, rugged and remote, and enjoys few of the amenities of its up-the-hill cousin Banff, renowned for its Swiss Alps-like charm and dramatic scenery.

A winding mountain road provides the only access to the village, and if security officials shut down access to Kananaskis, demonstrators will be limited to hiking over 10 miles of rough terrain from neighbouring Canmore.

The organisers of this year's summit make no bones about the fact the village, which has but two hotels, is hard to get to. In fact, it was chosen precisely for that reason.

It is amid this dramatic setting - high in the Canadian Rockies - that the world's leaders will grapple with the harsh realities and increasing uncertainties of a world stunned by terror and struggling with poverty and disease.


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See also:

24 Jul 01 | Americas
14 Jun 02 | Middle East
13 Jun 02 | Americas
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