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The BBC's Robin Oakley
"The PM will find a bout of international statesmanship a welcome relief"
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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 07:18 GMT 08:18 UK
Blair focuses on world stage
Mr Blair and Thabo Mbeki
Mr Blair will meet leaders including Thabo Mbeki
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in Tokyo for the G8 summit of world leaders, determined to leave domestic problems behind him.

In an interview with reporters on the flight from London, Mr Blair dismissed stories about an embarrassing series of leaks from Downing Street as "froth".

He defended his focus group guru Philip Gould, two of whose memos - revealing alarm at the way the government is perceived by voters - have been leaked to newspapers.

The BBC's political editor Robin Oakley says a bout of international statesmanship will come as a welcome relief to the prime minister.

Mr Blair will spend his first day in Japan in a series of meeting ahead of the summit proper which begins on Friday on the island of Okinawa, in the East China Sea and ends on Sunday.

Mr Blair and fellow leaders will discuss issues including the spread of Aids threatening Africa's prosperity, the impact of new technology on developing nations and debt relief for the poorest countries in the world.

GM food issue

He will later hold private talks with his Japanese counterpart Yoshiro Mori, and is expected to reassure him the British Government's policy on the euro was firm and inward investors have nothing to fear.

The leaders of the G7 countries - Canada, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan - will be joined for some sessions by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Mr Blair hopes for private talks with him as well as with US president Bill Clinton.

Britain also hopes for some agreement on how countries should judge the desirability of GM foods being freely available on supermarket shelves.

Topics on the agenda of the summit also include reform of international financial institutions, the threat posed by international money laundering by drug barons, and the sale of "conflict" diamonds from countries such as Sierra Leone.

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
G8 urged to honour debt promise
19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair braced for more leaks
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