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G8 & African Leaders Discuss Zimbabwe, Food Crisis

[SEE ALSO: G8 LEADERS SUMMIT 2008 - SCOOP FULL COVERAGE]

G8, African Leaders Discuss Zimbabwe; African Leaders Press G8 For Assistance In Food Crisis

Washington -- Members of the Group of Eight major industrialized democracies met with leaders from seven African nations to discuss actions against Zimbabwe over its flawed presidential runoff election and an array of global issues confronting Africa, including health, food, trade and investment.

At a July 7 briefing, President Bush said he is deeply concerned for the Zimbabwean people in the aftermath of a presidential runoff election in June that re-elected Robert Mugabe. "I am extremely disappointed in the elections, which I labeled a 'sham' election," he said.

Mugabe was the only candidate in the June 27 election. Opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff after many of his supporters had been beaten or killed by state-sponsored enforcers. In the initial March election, Tsvangirai won 48 percent of the vote to Mugabe's 43 percent, but that was insufficient to win the election outright.

"Of course, we have discussed the issue of Zimbabwe, where we understand your concerns," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said at the press conference with Bush after the first day of the G8 forum. "But I want to assure you that the concerns that you have expressed are indeed the concerns of many of us in the African continent. At the last summit of the African Union, many leaders expressed their dissatisfaction at the way things happened."

Kikwete, the current head of the African Union, said the only area where African leaders may disagree with the G8 leaders is on the way forward. AU leaders at a recent meeting in Egypt expressed concern over the elections, but did not condemn the runoff election or Mugabe. Many African nations have expressed support for a power-sharing government, but the White House has questioned how that might work, given the current environment in Zimbabwe.

Bush has proposed an international arms embargo and other measures, White House officials have said. The Zimbabwe presidential election is expected to come before the U.N. Security Council and there is a possibility of a Security Council resolution, says Dan Price, the U.S. deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs.

"All of the leaders are troubled by what's happening there. The African leaders have, of course, been working their own diplomacy in the region, and they talked about that," Price said at a briefing following the meeting. "I think all of the leaders recognized that we're facing a very tragic situation in Zimbabwe."

The G8 -- which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- is meeting on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido through July 9 for its annual summit. Japan is host to this year's summit and has set the agenda. Energy security and climate change are on the agenda, and meetings are planned with other nations on an array of economic and security matters.

Price noted that leaders from Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania met with the G8 to discuss health, food, trade and investment issues.

"One thing that was very clear from these meetings, there was universal emphasis by virtually all African leaders on the essential need for G8 countries to honor their past commitments in respect [to] health and development assistance," he said. Bush expressed concern about accountability by G8 nations regarding previous pledges of assistance to African nations.

At the 2005 summit, G8 nations pledged to provide up to $25 billion in assistance by 2010. Bush noted that the United States has met its commitment and is encouraging other G8 partners to meet their pledges.

The African leaders also placed a great deal of emphasis on the looming food crisis that has gripped a large segment of the underdeveloped world, Price said. "They stressed the need for new technologies and for educating agricultural scientists and for having access not only to immediate food assistance but non-food assistance, such as fertilizer and high-yielding seeds," he said.

Price said the president emphasized the importance of using biotechnology in food production.

"The African leaders identified the importance of economic growth through trade and investment, acknowledging that part of this involves creating an attractive business climate at home," he said. And the leaders stressed the need for adopting improved trade access and market liberalization.

Price said Bush emphasized the importance of concluding the Doha round of trade-liberalization talks this year. The Doha round began at the 2001 World Trade Organization meeting and is designed to significantly reduce trade barriers among nations and lift millions out of poverty.

ENDS

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