G8 Leaders Discuss Iran, Syria at Summit

Posted May 19th, 2012 at 12:10 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 Group of Eight leaders found common ground on the issues during talks on global security issues 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.

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.

But he insisted that the private sector commitments were not intended to replace aid, saying the United States would continue to make “historic investments” in development. He said the U.S. has a “moral obligation” to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

“Some have asked in a time of austerity whether this alliance is just a way for government to shift the burden onto somebody else. I want to be clear. The answer is no.”

Mr. Obama said the pledges from the private companies, along with contributions from donor countries, are aimed at boosting farmers' incomes and helping 50 million people lift themselves out of poverty over the next 10 years.

The U.S. president addressed African leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania during the speech in Washington, which he said will be the first three countries to undertake the effort. African Union chair and president of Benin, Thomas Boni Yayi, was also present and will take part along with his fellow African leaders in what Mr. Obama described as a “special” G-8 session Saturday devoted to the food security challenge.

Following the speech, President Obama welcomed new French President Francois Hollande to the White House for their first one-on-one meeting. Mr. Hollande, who was sworn in this week, has called for a change in Europe's current focus on austerity to address the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, President Obama said much of his discussion with President Hollande centered on the situation in the eurozone. Mr. Obama said they both agreed that it is an issue of “extraordinary importance” not only to the people of Europe but also to the world economy.

The austerity pact has led to a political standoff in cash-strapped Greece, where voters rejected political parties that agreed to harsh budget cuts in exchange for financial assistance.

Mr. Hollande will also play a central role in the two-day NATO summit that will begin 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.