As President George W Bush and his wife arrived in St Petersburg for the weekend’s G8 summit, the meticulous preparations for the meeting have been eclipsed by events in the Middle East. There is really only one subject on the agenda now – the fast-escalating crises in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
While the US and Canada support Israel’s right to defend itself, most of the European nations and Russia have spoken out against what they call a disproportionate use of force by Israel.
Elsewhere Russian President Vladimir Putin has attended a Junior G8 summit, a meeting of young delegates from the Group of Eight countries, where he faced questioning on the violence in the Middle East.
He said that disproportionate use of force as a response – even to the taking of hostages – is unacceptable and called on all sides to stop the bloodshed. He added it would have better not have resorted to military force and described the resulting civilian deaths as a tragedy.
While G8 summits normally attract tens of thousands of protesters, Russia is keeping all activists on a very tight leash. The only authorised site is a stadium some 20 kilometres from the summit itself. Some 200 demonstrators have been arrested already, including two German journalists who say they were covering an anti-G8 rally.