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Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 18:28 UK

Chaos and caring amid the politics

President Obama, left, and President Sarkovy being photographed
Journalists have complained of poor organisation at the summit

By Duncan Kennedy
BBC News, L'Aquila, Italy

The helicopter blades have stopped turning, the limousine engines have been switched off.

All the VIPs who have been flown or driven to the G8 summit in the central Italian city of L'Aquila have now arrived.

But even as it got under way there have been some who have been saying it has been badly organised.

Britain's Guardian newspaper was one that said preparations were so chaotic that there have been murmurings from other member states about expelling Italy from the G8.

The paper said that moving the summit from Sardinia to L'Aquila, which was hit by an earthquake in April, had created a situation where other countries were setting the agenda for the conference, instead of the host, Italy.

The Italians have reacted with anger and disbelief.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said it should be The Guardian who ought to be expelled from the list of great newspapers.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi has been attacked over Italy's aid pledges

Then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi weighed in saying allegations of a shambolic conference were a "load of rubbish" from what he called a "small newspaper".

Mr Berlusconi is a seasoned politician with a thick skin, but he is feeling particularly sensitive to criticism at the moment, following a series of stories about his private life involving allegations of relationships and dalliances with young women.

He has denied them all in one way or another, but it is believed he sees the G8 as one way of drawing a line under the attacks.

Instead, he wants to portray himself as a world statesman.

However, newspapers and others are unlikely to be put off the chase, even though they might effectively suspend it for the duration of the three-day summit.

But Mr Berlusconi and others here are also being attacked on substance, especially for their policies on aid to Africa.

The twin anti-poverty voices of Bob Geldof and Bono, lead singer of U2, have said Mr Berlusconi, in particular, is simply not doing enough to make good on pledges to increase aid.

Mr Geldof has even labelled the Italian leader "Mister 3%" because that's the amount the Italians have increased their aid budget when they had promised to do much more.

Mr Berlusconi has had little choice but to roll over and take the criticism, though he insisted Italy would do more.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi meets residents of quake-damaged Onna, Italy
Leaders took the opportunity to show their caring side in quake areas

One way that looks like happening is to persuade the G8 to adopt pledges to spend up to $15bn (£9.3bn) on helping farmers in Africa grow crops, instead of simply offering food aid.

It could be one of the few concrete results to come out of the summit.

On the two other main themes of the conference - the global economy and climate change - progress could be more modest.

That is not because of any procedural or organisational lapses by the Italians.

It is simply that not every one agrees on the way forward.

With climate change, US President Barack Obama and others are pushing for clear commitments to reduce CO2 pollution levels so that the post-Kyoto meeting in Copenhagen in December can stand some chance of success.

But there are divisions over how to achieve the goal of cutting emissions by 50% by 2050.

Discussions will not have been helped by the decision of the Chinese leader, President Hu Jintao, to go home to deal with the domestic unrest in northwest China.

Chinese tanks move into Urumqi following unrest there
China's president returned home to deal with unrest in Urumqi

China is a big polluter, but it is also a major part of any solution and so its voice and input is vital.

Similarly, with the global economy, some countries, like Germany, are saying that the time is approaching where stimulus packages may have to be modified and even ended, so there can be a return to normal economic life, with its financial prudence and properly balanced budgets.

But the Americans, the British and one or two others are saying this is not the time to take the foot off the stimulus accelerator, and to do so would be to risk the gains achieved in stabilising the world economies.

The consensus is probably coalescing more round the Anglo-American view, that to ease off now would be wrong.

The opinion seems to be that big spending is right and proper to prevent further meltdown.

In some senses the atmosphere of sobriety in financial policies is matched by the location of the summit, a city where nearly 300 lost their lives in an earthquake in April.

Some of the leaders have visited scenes of destruction.

There was no bad organisation on the part of the Italians over that.

The summit may be no more than a political discussion about the major events of our time, rather than a forum to sign treaties and create new laws, but all those attending will have received an unorthodox reminder from those caught up in the earthquake that helping people is what these leaders and these conferences are supposed to be about.



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