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The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The leaders have set themselves an ambitious agenda"
 real 28k

The BBC's Patrick O'Connell in Okinawa
"Tony Blair knows a good summit can make a difference"
 real 28k

The BBC's Andrew Walker
"On some financial issues, it is clearly the G7 that drive the agenda and ultimately take the big decisions"
 real 28k

Friday, 21 July, 2000, 05:24 GMT 06:24 UK
Debt shadow over G8 summit
Green Peace Rainbow Warrior
Environmentalists are appealing for an end to logging
The plight of the world's poorest countries will top the agenda in Japan at the annual G8 summit of the world's major industrial nations.

A delegation from the developing nations made an urgent plea before the meeting for the world's wealthiest nations to keep the promises they made at last year's summit to write off $100bn of Third World debt.

Summit issues
The spread of infectious diseases, including Aids
Helping Third World countries with debt relief
Improving the workings of global financial institutions such as the World Bank
Nuclear proliferation
International action against crime

The G8 delegates, meeting on the island of Okinawa, will also be tackling issues as diverse as combating Aids and computer crime, thwarting diamond trafficking, the safety of genetically modified foods, and bridging the digital divide.

The summit has already attracted controversy, with about 25,000 Japanese protesters forming a human chain around the largest US base in Okinawa to demand the withdrawal of the US military.

Asian crisis

The seven founding members of the G8 - the US, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Canada - will first discuss the progress of international financial reforms put in motion after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

They will consider a report from their finance ministers who say that, despite some progress, greater action is needed to prevent a repeat of such crises.

Okinawa protest
Protests against the US military presence in Okinawa
They have called on the International Monetary Fund to change its policies on loans to discourage long-term lending, but also to ensure that countries have better access to a special emergency fund during times of crisis.

Only after these talks conclude will Russia join the proceedings, in the shape of President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has attended these meetings since 1994, but takes part only in the political discussions. Plans to involve Russia in economic and financial talks were postponed in 1998 when the Russian rouble was devalued, plunging the country into economic crisis.

Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin wants a place at the table
Now, with the economy improving and Mr Putin committed to reform, Russia believes it should play a role in global economic discussions.

Russia also wants to gain debt forgiveness from Western governments, after reaching agreement to reschedule its private sector debt.

Russia's presence at the meeting this year could cause some embarrassment, however, as the seven are also particularly interested in tackling money laundering.

A recent report backed by the G7 nations has criticised Moscow for a lack of adequate measures to combat the processing of illegally acquired money.

Digital divide

Top of the agenda for the summit's Japanese host, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, is bridging the digital divide between rich nations rapidly adopting information technology, and poor countries where even a telephone can be beyond reach.

He is planning to announce that Japan will earmark $15bn in aid and loans over the next five years to train IT experts in developing countries.

Baby
The plight of the world's poorest nations is high on the agenda
The Japanese prime minister is also expected to announce a further $3bn to help the fight against disease.

That issue was on the agenda on Thursday as he and other G8 leaders held an unprecendented summit with representatives of the developing world, including South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart, Olusegun Obasanjo .

They urged the G8 to implement last year's pact to wipe out $100bn of debt owed by the world's 40 poorest nations if they carried out reforms to improve economic efficiency and alleviate poverty.

Mr Obasanjo said the G8 leaders had failed to live up to their promise to do this by the end of 2000.

Debt campaigners predict that only $15bn of debt will have been wiped out by the end of the year.

Mr Obasanjo said after the meeting: "We have got encouraging words. It is a question of how to translate encouraging words into action."

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Find out more about the G8 summit in Okinawa

Overview:
Key Stories:
On the agenda:
TALKING POINT
See also:

21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Clinton pledge on Okinawa military
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Debt pressure on richest countries
20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair focuses on world stage
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's 500m summit bill
19 Jul 00 | Business
IMF backs Russian reform
19 Jul 00 | Business
EU, Japan call for new trade round
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