G8 Summit Opens in Scotland

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has prepared an ambitious agenda for the G8 summit in Scotland. The two top items are his calls for increasing the amount of aid to poor African countries and for limiting the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Leaders attending the G8 Summit in Scotland today take on the divisive issues of global warming and agricultural subsidies and negotiating debt relief for Africa. Their advisers worked through the night in an attempt to resolve differences on these issues. The hope is to reach consensus before the meeting ends tomorrow. NPR's David Greene reports from the summit site at the resort of Gleneagles.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The first day of the G8 Summit was good for Tony Blair, although it had little to do with the summit itself. He got news that London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. He said it was quite a distraction.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Great Britain): And I've been trying to work on the G8 stuff, but I have to say my mind has been sort of two places at once today.

GREENE: If anyone will be judged on how the summit turns out, it's Tony Blair. As host this year, he laid out the agenda and it's a bold one. He wants the eight nations to reach some consensus on how to increase aid to impoverished African nations and how to limit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

For the moment, the man appearing to stand in his way is President Bush. Blair, for his part, has never wavered in his support for Mr. Bush in Iraq, even though his political support evaporated because of the war. And if there was ever a time to show the British public and the world that he has some bargaining power with his US ally, it might be now in Gleneagles. Coming into the summit, Mr. Bush said on Britain's ITV television network that he didn't view his relationship with Blair as a quid pro quo.

(Soundbite of television interview)

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I really don't view our relationship of one of, you know, we both make decisions and try to, you know, earn credit with each other on a personal basis. We--Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for keeping the peace and winning the war on terror as did I.

GREENE: What's best for the US when it comes to combating global warming, Mr. Bush says, is not to set specific restrictions on the greenhouse gases a country can produce. The president is the only G8 member who opposed the international Kyoto protocol which did just that. He said such a solution would wreck the US economy. But the president said he's determined to invest in technologies that would make wealthy countries less dependent on fossil fuels and therefore less polluting. It's up to Blair to broker some kind of deal that seems substantive rather than a papering over of differences. He spoke to that challenge this morning after meeting with Mr. Bush.

Prime Minister BLAIR: There's no point in going back over the Kyoto debate. My country's got its position on Kyoto, as have others. America's got its position on Kyoto. That is an argument that, you know, there has been, and we can't resolve that and we're not going to negotiate some new treaty on climate change at the G8 Summit.

GREENE: The British prime minister has also vowed to boost aid to poor nations in Africa. The G8 countries seem close to a deal that would wipe out billions of dollars in debt owed by 18 African nations to international organizations. But Mr. Bush balked at Blair's plan to tie aid to a nation's wealth, which would have put a lot of responsibility on the United States. The prime minister said yesterday he remains determined to come out of the summit with some kind of unified commitment to Africa from Mr. Bush and other leaders.

Prime Min. BLAIR: I'll push them the whole way. Do you ever get everything you ever want in negotiations like this? No, but can we make very substantial progress? Can we change the terms of debate on Africa? Yes, we can.

GREENE: What comes from this morning's discussions between Mr. Bush and Blair may say a lot about whether Blair can point to success at this summit and in his long-term relationship with President Bush.

David Greene, NPR News, Gleneagles, Scotland.

MONTAGNE: You can find out how the players at the G8 Summit stand on key issues by going to npr.org.

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