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Sarkozy Debuts On World Stage At G8 Summit

French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Carole Landry
Paris (AFP) Jun 05, 2007
President Nicolas Sarkozy makes his debut on the world stage at the Group of Eight summit of rich countries this week, a month after winning office on a pledge to bolster France's international role. Sarkozy is stepping into the shoes of his predecessor Jacques Chirac who was the G8 club's elder statesman when he retired after 12 years in office.

But the 52-year-old French president will be keen to show that he embodies a shift from the Chirac years when he stands alongside US President George W. Bush and leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia at the start of the three-day summit on Wednesday in the German seaside resort of Heiligendamm.

The one-on-one meeting with Bush on Friday provides a diplomatic test for Sarkozy, who has unabashedly praised the United States and shown he wants to move beyond Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war.

His victory speech on May 6 included a pledge to France's "American friends" to stand by Washington in time of need, but also a warning to act on climate change, a top issue at the Heiligendamm summit.

"A great nation like the United States has the duty to not create obstacles in the struggle against global warming. Quite the contrary, it should take the lead in this battle.

"What is at stake is the fate of all humanity," warned Sarkozy. "France will make this battle its first battle."

In an interview with several foreign journalists before the G8 summit, Sarkozy called Bush's climate change initiative last week encouraging as the US president now recognises that there is a global warming problem.

However Sarkozy joined in widespread criticism of the plan for failing to set firm targets for reductions.

"In my eyes, it is not sufficient," the French president was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

Summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hoping that the G8 will take the lead on shaping a new binding agreement to cap greenhouse gases but the United States has balked at the idea of setting targets.

While he is no novice at diplomacy, having met world leaders as interior minister, Sarkozy has been carefully preparing for his first international foray as head of state.

Last week he spoke by phone with former US vice president Al Gore who has raised public awareness about global warming with his lecture series "An Inconvenient Truth" that was later turned into a documentary film.

Sarkozy discussed poverty in Africa with Irish rocker Bono who has been a leading advocate of debt relief and the two men agreed during a phone conversation to meet on the sidelines of the Heiligendamm summit.

With polls showing that he is the most popular French leader since Charles De Gaulle, Sarkozy heads into the summit with a strong stature and a reputation as a man of action.

Of the seven leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to offer the coolest reception to Sarkozy, who criticized the war in Chechnya and Moscow's record on human rights during his presidential campaign.

Putin raised eyebrows last month by taking 48 hours to offer congratulations to Sarkozy for his election win over Socialist Segolene Royal.

Since taking office three weeks ago, Sarkozy has made Europe his top priority, travelling to Berlin, Brussels and Madrid while welcoming British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to the Elysee presidential palace.

He has been making headway in his bid to persuade European leaders to get to work on drafting a simplified EU treaty to replace the constitution that was rejected by Dutch and French voters in referendums two years ago.

His success at the G8 summit may well set the tone for the European Union summit in Brussels on June 21 and 22 that is expected to put on full display Sarkozy's resolve to ensure that France plays a leading role in Europe.

earlier related report
Sarkozy Says Bush Climate Proposals Not Sufficient
New York (AFP) Jun 06 - Newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy called US President George W. Bush's plan to combat global warming insufficient, in an interview published Tuesday.

While the French president said it was encouraging that Bush now recognizes that there is a global warming problem, "In my eyes, it is not sufficient," Sarkozy was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

Facing increasing international pressure ahead of a summit of leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised countries this week in Germany, Bush last week went on the offensive with his own climate plan.

Bush called for the United States and up to 14 other big emitters to agree by the end of next year "a long-term global goal" for reducing greenhouse gases.

Bush's initiative has been criticized for lacking key details, such as the scale and speed of the cuts, and the essential component of mandatory caps is absent. His proposal raised concerns the United States will try to bypass the UN process for drafting a new climate treaty.

"To preserve the planet, you have to show by example," Sarkozy told a group of foreign journalists. "You cannot be the first and strongest in the world and say to the rest of the world on such a subject that, 'We are not interested in this and we will use technology to solve the problem.'"

Bush's latest initiative continued to focus on technology as a means to halt global warming.

"It is not possible," said Sarkozy. "It is not even in the interest of the United States. I don't say this in an aggressive way, but because I believe it profoundly."

In his victory speech on May 6 Sarkozy signalled his differences with Bush on global warming and that it would be a top priority of his administration.

"A great nation like the United States has the duty to not create obstacles in the struggle against global warming. Quite the contrary, it should take the lead in this battle.

"What is at stake is the fate of all humanity," warned Sarkozy. "France will make this battle its first battle."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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In Praise Of Pessimism
Washington (UPI) June 05, 2007
Many of these columns have been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Others have been critical of American President George W. Bush. Those who object to my criticism of Putin see me as a conservative, while those who dislike my criticism of Bush see me as a liberal. But I am neither a conservative nor a liberal. Instead, I am a pessimist -- at least insofar as international relations are concerned.

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