- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2001

GENOA, Italy — President Bush yesterday lamented the death of a protester at the Group of Eight economic summit here, but insisted that he and other democratically elected leaders have the "necessary right to be able to discuss our common problems."
"I'm very concerned about the violence — it's a tragic loss of life that's occurred, " Mr. Bush said in his first public statement on the bloodshed. "It's also tragic that many police officers have been hurt, men and women who have been [protecting] democratically elected leaders and our necessary right to be able to discuss our common problems."
The president's remarks echoed a statement issued by summit participants yesterday. "We, the leaders of the G-8, express our sorrow and regret following the death in Genoa," the statement said. "But we condemn firmly and absolutely the violence overflowing into anarchy of a small minority that we have seen at work here in Genoa and at recent international meetings."
The president made his own statement during a one-on-one meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, who seemed more sympathetic to the protesters — a mix of communists, labor unions, farmers, unemployed workers and ant-globalism activists. Some have smashed windows, set fires, looted stores and hurled cobblestones at police.
"We have all been traumatized by events, " Mr. Chirac said. "The elected leaders of our countries have to consider the problems that have brought tens of thousands of our compatriots, mainly from European countries, to demonstrate — to demonstrate their concern, to demonstrate their wish to change."
Mr. Chirac said the summit of industrialized nations "has been somewhat overshadowed" by the violence, which continued for a second day. Police fired tear gas against protesters who screamed "assassins" as they tried to storm a security fence surrounding the summit site.
Authorities deliberated over whether to charge a 20-year-old policeman with manslaughter for shooting a hooded, 23-year-old protester with a criminal record as he tried to hurl a fire extinguisher at the officer. Protest organizers called for an immediate halt to the summit.
But Mr. Bush and the other leaders resolved to push on with their talks on world poverty and AIDS, some of the very issues they are accused of ignoring. In fact, the president said the protesters were the ones who were hurting the poor by opposing free trade. "Those who claim to represent the voices of the poor aren't doing so, " Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush discussed the Middle East, Iran, China, North Korea and Russia during his meeting with Mr. Chirac. He then met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and discussed Russia, China and Iran. The president's plan for a global missile defense shield did not come up in either 40-minute meeting. Nor did the topic of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which Mr. Bush opposes and the French and German leaders support.
But during a photo opportunity before his meeting with Mr. Schroeder, the president said he and the German had found common ground on the thorny issue of global warming. "We have reached an accommodation and here it is, " Mr. Bush said. "We both agree to reduce greenhouse gases and we both agree to continue dialogue."
The president reaffirmed his opposition to Kyoto, which would force the United States to reduce emissions to pre-1990 levels while exempting developing nations, including some of the world's biggest polluters. Mr. Bush has said the treaty, which has been ratified only by Romania, is "fatally flawed" because it would hurt American consumers and businesses. "The methodology in the Kyoto accord is something that would harm our nation's economy, and therefore we're looking for different alternatives to the same goal, " Mr. Bush said. "I will explain to the chancellor that our nation will come up with a strategy — we're in the process of developing one."
The leaders never got around to discussing the subject during their private meeting. But during the photo opportunity, Mr. Bush recalled earlier meetings with Mr. Schroeder in which the two clashed over Kyoto. "My position, while he didn't agree with it, was one that he understood, " the president said. Mr. Schroeder agreed. "Certainly, the president is very right in just saying that we do share the same targets here," the chancellor said. "On the tool of Kyoto, as such, we do differ."
But both leaders were encouraged about the president's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will meet with Mr. Bush in Genoa today. The president plans to press the Russian leader on the need to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and the defunct Soviet Union, which forbade both nations from defending themselves against missile attacks. Mr. Putin has expressed a willingness to consider supplanting the ABM treaty with the Bush plan for a global missile defense shield.
"I plan to have a very honest and open dialogue with the president that will continue our discussions about how to keep the peace, " Mr. Bush said. "I think it's important for us to continue making progress on whether or not we can agree to a new strategic framework. " He added: "It's a very positive development, I think, for the world."
Mr. Bush has been widely criticized for failing to express sufficient skepticism of Mr. Putin during their first meeting, which was held last month in Slovenia. But rather than back away from his friendship with the former KGB official, Mr. Bush yesterday enthused that it is continuing to blossom. "I can tell you right now that my relationship with President Putin is better than it was in Slovenia by virtue of the fact that we're spending more informal time together, " he told journalists. "One of the benefits of these meetings is that we get to see each other at places other than just sitting around round tables discussing issues.
"And so at the receptions we've been able to have some idle chatter — some of it may be of interest to you, some of it probably wouldn't be. But nevertheless, we're able to continue a dialogue in a very friendly and open way, Mr. Bush said."
He added: "I think that's going to be very important for our ability to work together on a lot of issues, particularly that of a new strategic framework."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide