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Arab Spring, nuclear safety, occupy G8 chiefs

(From L) Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US President Barack Obama and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso attend a round table meeting during the G8 summit in Deauville, on May 26, 2011. G8 chiefs met to call for an end to the violent repression of revolts in Syria and Libya on May 26 and express solidarity with their partner Japan as it recovers from nuclear disaster. Photo courtesy AFP.

Sarkozy to tell Israel, Palestinians that peace within reach
Deauville, France (AFP) May 26, 2011 - French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is to go to the Middle East next week to tell Israel and the Palestinians that peace is now "within reach", President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday.

Alain Juppe will bring a message that "peace has waited too long," Sarkozy told journalists at the G8 summit in the French resort of Deauville, adding that the current Middle East stalemate was untenable.

"The parameters for peace are perfectly well known and more time passing does not favour men of peace, it favours terrorists and extremists," he said, hailing the "good news" of a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas.

The bitter Palestinian rivals earlier this month announced a long-anticipated deal to create a government of national unity and prepare elections in the Palestinian territories.

Juppe will ask the Palestinians if the new government will call into question recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace and security, Sarkozy said, and will urge Israel to relaunch stalled peace talks.

"The situation today is untenable," Sarkozy said, adding that he had "great harmony" with the position of US President Barack Obama.

In a key policy speech last week, Obama said the territorial lines in place before the 1967 Six Day War, combined with land swaps, should be the basis for talks on a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The idea was hailed by Palestinians but rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the Palestinians to tear up the pact as Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist group, "is not a partner for peace."

Sarkozy said it was contradictory for Israel to reject talks with the Palestinians.

"There's a contradiction in saying for years that peace is not possible because the Palestinians are divided and now that they're trying to come together to say we won't talk to them because of the rapprochement," he said.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010, when they ground to a halt over ongoing Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

by Staff Writers
Deauville, France (AFP) May 26, 2011
The leaders of the world's great industrial powers met on Thursday to show solidarity with Arab peoples fighting for democracy and with Japan's battle to recover from nuclear disaster.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France welcomed the chiefs of the Group of Eight most developed nations to the windswept Normandy resort of Deauville for two days of talks on the world's great diplomatic and economic challenges.

According to a draft version of their planned declaration, seen by AFP, the presidents and prime ministers were to call for an end to violent repression in Libya and Syria and for immediate Israel-Palestinian peace talks.

They were expected to agree a statement backing a limited government role in policing the Internet and boosting global nuclear safety standards in the wake of Japan's devastating tsunami-triggered nuclear tragedy.

The leaders, including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, also took time out from summit business to congratulate Serbia on the capture of Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect, Ratko Mladic.

Sarkozy, whose supermodel wife Carla Bruni provided the day's other talking point by appearing in a loose dress that showed off her hitherto unconfirmed pregnancy, said the G8 would discuss imposing tougher sanctions on Syria.

"Clearly, the question of strengthening sanctions against Syrian leaders needs to be asked, because the violence being used against demonstrators is unacceptable," Sarkozy told reporters after the first summit sessions.

"There will be discussions about this tonight," he said, before heading to a local waterfront restaurant to host a working dinner with fellow leaders from Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime is engaged in a violent crackdown on unarmed pro-democracy protests, fearing they will build into successful revolutions like those that recently swept away autocracies in Egypt and Tunisia.

The draft final statement laid before the leaders calls on Syria to halt the shooting and "to engage in dialogue and fundamental reforms in response to the legitimate expression of the demands of the Syrian people."

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to be the most reluctant of the leaders to impose new measures on Syria, Russia's traditional ally.

But Moscow was in agreement with France over the need for tougher safety standards in the nuclear industry following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, plans for which were outlined in the draft statement.

"The likelihood is very high because there is simply no alternative to that," said Nikolai Spassky, deputy head of state nuclear body Rosatom.

Nuclear safety is, high on the agenda following a March earthquake in Japan, which triggered a tsunami that killed 25,000 people and flooded the Fukushima plant, plunging it into meltdown and spewing out radioactive .waste water.

G8 leaders were to express "heartfelt sympathy" to the people of Japan during the lunch, according to the draft.

"The United States will stand by Japan for as long as it takes for Japan to recover. And I'm confident that it will recover," Obama said, after meeting Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the sidelines of the summit.

The leaders are also expected to promise new aid for the new governments of Tunisia and Egypt to encourage democratic reform following the revolts that overthrew strongmen Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak.

Britain's Cameron pledged 110 million pounds ($175 million) to foster democracy in the region -- and Sarkozy is expected to push his partners for more.

Meanwhile, amid a slew of bilateral discussions, Russia and France finalised a deal for Paris to sell four powerful modern amphibious assault ships to Moscow, in a move that may worry some European and post-Soviet nations.

Sarkozy said the signature would take place in a fortnight.

Following their so-called "e-G8" in Paris on the eve of the summit, Internet pioneers including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Eric Schmidt joined the G8 national leaders for part of their afternoon session.

The online industry, with backing from Washington, is opposed to plans for regulation, but Sarkzoy is pressing for the G8 statement to at least confirm that government has a role in controlling illegal content on the web.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy ended weeks of speculation about France's soon-to-be First Baby when she greeted the wives of the G8 leaders with a visible bump swelling an unbelted white dress.

Bruni, 43, had declined to comment on pregnancy rumours but made no attempt to hide her condition and smiled for photographers.



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SUPERPOWERS
Sarkozy to tell Israel, Palestinians that peace within reach
Deauville, France (AFP) May 26, 2011
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is to go to the Middle East next week to tell Israel and the Palestinians that peace is now "within reach", President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday. Alain Juppe will bring a message that "peace has waited too long," Sarkozy told journalists at the G8 summit in the French resort of Deauville, adding that the current Middle East stalemate was untenable. ... read more







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