Commonwealth Leaders Begin Crucial Summit

Posted October 28th, 2011 at 3:20 am (UTC-5)
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Leaders of dozens of nations once linked to the former British empire have gathered in Australia to discuss such issues as human rights and succession to the British throne.

A traditional cleansing ritual by a local Aboriginal tribe greeted the leaders as they arrived for Friday's opening ceremony of the 54-nation Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the western city Perth.

The three-day summit is being held amid concerns about the Commonwealth's relevancy in the 21st century.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth told the leaders in her opening remarks the meeting “promises to bring new vibrancy” to the grouping. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard urged her counterparts to make this year's meeting memorable for giving the Commonwealth “the direction it needed at a time of global uncertainty and risk.”

The leaders will discuss such issues as climate change, the high rates of child brides in many Commonwealth nations, and laws that criminalize homosexuality.