G-8 unity on foreign policy contrasts with G-20 division on economic issues

A protester yells during demonstrations in the streets of Toronto during the G-20 summit Saturday. Thousands of people marched in the biggest rally yet during meetings of global leaders.

Associated Press

A protester yells during demonstrations in the streets of Toronto during the G-20 summit Saturday. Thousands of people marched in the biggest rally yet during meetings of global leaders.

TORONTO — At odds over how to strengthen the global recovery, top world leaders found common ground on foreign policy Saturday, condemning North Korea for the alleged sinking of a South Korean warship and endorsing a five-year exit time­table for Afghanistan.

In a joint statement, the leading eight industrial democracies also criticized both Iran and North Korea for continuing their nuclear march and called on both to heed existing United Nations resolutions.

The statement on the March sinking of the South Korean ship was not as strongly worded as the United States and some other countries had hoped. Russia was cited as a holdout against tougher language.

While earlier demonstrations had been nonviolent, black-clad protesters broke off from a larger crowd on Saturday, torching police cruisers and smashing windows with baseball bats and hammers. Some demonstrators hurled bottles at police.

"This isn't our Toronto, and my response is anger," Mayor David Miller told CP24 television. "Every Torontonian should be outraged by this."

After spending Friday debating the best response to the lingering global financial crisis, the G-8 leaders — representing the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia — focused Saturday on foreign policy, where it appeared easier to reach consensus.

The eight nations concluded the group's two-day meeting at a lakeside resort about 140 miles north of Toronto with a joint statement. Leaders then immediately returned to Toronto to continue their talks as part of the Group of 20, a broader meeting, which includes countries such as China, India and Brazil that have fast-growing economies.

World leaders found themselves divided on how best to keep the world economy growing after the worst recession since the 1930s. They split between calls, mainly from the U.S., for more government stimulus to keep the world from slipping back into recession, and appeals from European countries and Japan for spending cuts and even tax hikes to avoid Greece-like near defaults.

For now, the leaders have generally cooled their rhetoric and agreed that deficits must be tamed in the long term, while different countries may use different tactics to tackle the burdens of debt and deficits in the short term.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters that President Barack Obama "clearly talked about the risks of debt and deficit" in the U.S.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said world leaders must work together to make sure the global recovery stays on track.

"The scars of this crisis are still with us," he said. "If the world economy is to expand at its potential, if growth is going to be sustainable in the future, then we need to act together to strengthen the recovery and finish the job of repairing the damage of the crisis."

The back-to-back summits came amid what Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the host, called an "enormous crisis facing us all, serious threats to the stability, economic prosperity of every country."

Leaders were also holding one-on-one sessions on the sidelines of the two summits. Obama met separately on Saturday with Chinese President Hu Jintao, South Korean President Lee and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Canadians gasp at security price tag

The cost of providing security for the back-to-back G-8 and G-20 summits has elicited gasps from Canadians. The latest government estimate is $897 million for the three days of the summit. That comes to more than $12 million per hour, nearly what the government spends per year in the war in Afghanistan. "This might be the most expensive 72 hours in Canadian history," Mark Holland of the Liberal Party was quoted as saying. The previous record was the 2008 Group of 20 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, which cost $345 million for security, a report said.

China's currency reform: Senior Chinese officials warned Saturday at a summit of the Group of 20 that they will consider their own economic needs when making changes in exchange rate policies. In an effort to head off complaints, China announced before the summit that it would start allowing its currency to rise in value against the dollar.

Times wires

G-8 unity on foreign policy contrasts with G-20 division on economic issues 06/27/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 27, 2010 12:06am]

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