German police used water cannons to disperse
protesters around the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, where leaders of the G8
group of major industrial nations began informal discussions Wednesday ahead of
their formal summit opening on Thursday. VOA's Sonja Pace is near the conference
site and has this report.
Protest organizers spread the word of
anti-G8 activities for the day - telling activists to fan out.
According to German police, thousands of them did just that - blocking roads
leading from the airport in the nearby city of Rostock toward the summit site of
Heiligendamm on the coast.
Nearly 10,000 protestors swarmed toward the 12-kilometer-long security fence
set up by police to cordon off the summit area. Some demonstrators bombarded the
police with stones - police responded with water cannons to drive them back.
Despite the protests, heads of state and government arrived throughout the
day, holding a series of informal meetings at Heiligendamm ahead of Thursday's
official summit opening.
Summit host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, met with U.S. President George
Bush over lunch. Afterward, Mrs. Merkel said she hoped the summit would send a
strong signal on important commitments.
Mrs. Merkel spoke specifically about climate change and the alleviation of
poverty in Africa as main themes at this summit.
She said she and Mr. Bush had agreed in many areas, while work remained to be
done in others.
Mrs. Merkel has made reining in global warming a cornerstone of her
leadership of the G8. She would like to reach agreement on benchmark caps to
greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming.
Mr. Bush does not want to commit to mandatory benchmarks and instead wants to
work toward an agreement that will be in place when the current international
climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012.
"I … come with a strong desire to work with you on a post-Kyoto agreement
about how we can achieve major objectives - one of course is the reduction of
greenhouse gases, another is to become more energy independent," he said.
The United States did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, and Mr. Bush has now
proposed his own plan to curb global warming. He wants to get the countries that
emit the most greenhouse gases to negotiate a reduction strategy by the end of
next year. This would include emerging economies such as India and China.
Mr. Bush spoke of the need to further help Africa.
"I come with a deep desire to make sure that those suffering from HIV/AIDS on
the continent of Africa know that they'll get help from the G8," he said. "I
come with a deep desire to work with people around the table to reduce malaria
on the continent of Africa and feed the hungry."
While at the summit, Mr. Bush will also be meeting with Russian President
Vladimir Putin - at a time of heightened tensions between United States and
Russia over the U.S. proposal to build a missile defense system in