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Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Blair defends summits
Tony Blair with other summit leaders
Tony Blair insists protests must not overshadow talks
Tony Blair has insisted that world leaders must continue to meet despite the violence that has marred the G8 summit.

In an interview with BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme, the prime minister said that it was only by coming together that progress could be made on "tricky" issues like climate change.

He said he believed the summit's "lasting legacy" would be the agreement of a plan to help the future of Africa.


It gives us the best opportunity literally for generations, of giving Africa the hope and opportunity it needs for the future

Tony Blair
Mr Blair's comments came as it emerged that six Britons were among 96 anti-capitalist protesters arrested by anti-riot Italian police in Genoa.

But the prime minister stressed that such summits were vital to achieve progress and should continue in spite of the "headline-grabbing" violence.

"Unless people do come together in an informal way, we cannot get the measure of where different countries are on these really tricky questions, and then see if we can find a way forward," he said.

"Out of this summit, with any luck, we will get an agreement that we accept the objectives on climate change and can put together a process whereby we can resolve the differences between some of the countries.

"We then have an opportunity to work together to get over the remaining hurdles that lie in our way."

Africa plan

Mr Blair said he believed that the summit's greatest achievement had been the hammering out of what he said was the equivalent of a "Marshall Plan" for Africa.

"It gives us the best opportunity literally for generations, of giving Africa the hope and opportunity it needs for the future," he said.

"I think that will be the lasting legacy of the summit."

Demonstrations in Genoa
Protesters clashed with police on Saturday
"That's a very, very big and ambitious thing. We have locked ourselves now into a process that has got to yield a result and I think that's very important."

Mr Blair was asked whether it was feasible to hold a similar summit, given the problems that have plagued Genoa.

Mr Blair said: "What people now know is that if you have a cause and you put your point reasonably, you will get little coverage.

"If you have a cause and you commit an outrage you will lead the news...

"What gets displaced is the real politics."

Earlier, Mr Blair had refused to criticise the Italian police for their security operation during the summit.

But Europe Minister Peter Hain entered the fray on Saturday by accusing the Italian police of overreacting and saying that "serious questions" needed to be asked about their tactics in handling the demonstrators.

Frustration

Mr Blair voiced frustration about the way the rioters had managed to dominate the headlines, obscuring the work done at the summit.

He said that if he looked at the media coverage which the summit had generated, there was probably a 10-1 ratio in favour of the riots compared to the issue of Africa.

He said: "The world has gone mad when that is the case."

The prime minister was repeatedly quizzed whether the big city format was still practical for such summits given this weekend's violent scenes, including the death of a 23-year-old Italian man who was shot in the head by police.

Mr Blair said that it would be for the Canadians, who hold the next summit next year to decide the venue.

Sympathy

The prime minister expressed sympathy for local people in Genoa over the disruption and damage that had been wrought on their city.

He said that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had estimated that the rioters had caused millions of pounds of damage.

Italian police said that one of their officers was stabbed but uninjured, thanks to his body armour.

"The action of the police shooting and killing somebody, you can't defend that," he said.

An investigation continues into the shooting of the 23-year-old man during Friday's protests.

Judicial sources quoted by Reuters news agency have said the proceedings could lead to manslaughter charges against an officer.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
reacts angrily to suggestions that G8 leaders should reconsider meeting face-to-face
See also:

21 Jul 01 | Europe
Summit leaders condemn 'anarchy'
22 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Hain condemns Italian police
21 Jul 01 | Europe
G8 resumes in shadow of death
20 Jul 01 | Business
G8 leaders focus on world poverty
19 Jul 01 | Europe
G8 protesters take to the streets
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