G8 Leaders Discuss Iran, Syria at Summit

Posted May 19th, 2012 at 1:45 am (UTC-5)
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Leaders of the largest industrialized countries have agreed to keep pressure on Iran to disclose more about its nuclear program and on the need to focus on a political transition in Syria.

Senior U.S. officials say the situations involving the two countries were discussed by Group of Eight leaders who held their initial talks on Friday at a dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The G-8 leaders have gathered for their annual economic summit, which is taking place at the Camp David presidential retreat outside of Washington.

Officials say the leaders agreed on a need for Iran to take concrete steps to prove that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. Iran and representatives of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency met in Austria this week to discuss Iran's nuclear program and are set to meet again on Sunday in Tehran.

On Syria, officials say the leaders also voiced support for a peace plan, brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, as part of efforts to end deadly anti-government unrest that has plagued the country for over a year.

Officials say world powers also discussed concerns that North Korea may launch a new nuclear test.

On Saturday, summit leaders will discuss economic issues, including the eurozone debt crisis.

The talks come at a time when cash-strapped Greece could possibly exit the eurozone. Greek voters rejected political parties that agreed to harsh budget cuts in exchange for financial assistance.

At a Friday news conference at Camp David, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it is important for Greece and other eurozone members to respect commitments.

“I would like to reaffirm very clearly that we want Greece to stay in the euro area. Greece is part of the European family, and part of the euro project, and the European Union, I am sure will do all it takes to ensure it.”

Ahead of the summit, President Obama announced a new global partnership to involve the private sector in improving food security in Africa, as wealthy nations struggle with shrinking budgets.

Mr. Obama said Friday that 45 companies, from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives, had pledged more than $3 billion toward the new effort to help boost agriculture.

He also welcomed new French President Francois Hollande to the White House for their first one-on-one meeting. Mr. Hollande was sworn in this week.

Mr. Hollande will also play a central role in the two-day NATO summit that begins Sunday in Mr. Obama's hometown of Chicago. The new French president has pledged to remove all his country's troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year — two years before all NATO troops are scheduled to leave.

Ahead of the NATO meeting, hundreds of protesters rallied in Chicago, on Friday, where they pressed their demands for issues ranging from bank bailouts to climate change.