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Economic leaders endorse nuclear energy development

ST. PETERSBURG -- With high demand and worries about supply driving oil near $80 a barrel, the Group of Eight nations offered cautious support yesterday for nuclear energy as an alternative.

While the leaders of the world's most industrialized nations endorsed the use of nuclear power, they hinted at a disagreement with Germany, which has opposed renewed interest in it.

In an otherwise upbeat joint statement -- which delegates privately suggested was out of synch with reality -- the leaders acknowledged differences over the question of nuclear power.

``We recognize that G-8 members pursue different ways to achieve energy security and climate protection goals. . . . Those of us who have or are considering plans for the use and/or development of safe and secure nuclear energy believe that its development will contribute to global energy security," the statement said.

Defending the statement, Russian Energy and Industry Minster Viktor Khristenko said that the inclusion of a section on nuclear power was ``a significant event," giving countries the opportunity to work actively toward developing nuclear energy in the future, ``which we plan to do," he said.

He conceded that there were differences, however. ``Yes, its true that different countries view the prospects for nuclear energy differently," he said. ``Some of them continue active internal discussions on whether it is possible or not to develop nuclear energy."

Energy security was a focal theme of this year's G-8 summit, after hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico drove global oil prices to new highs last year and Europe was caught short of gas after a price fight between Russia and Ukraine this winter disrupted supplies. Since then, Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program and renewed violence in the Middle East have sent oil prices soaring even higher.

In their statement, the G-8 leaders said they are committed to transparency, competition, and increased investment in the energy sector.

``Development of transparent, efficient, and competitive global energy markets is the best way to achieve our objectives," they said.

They identified 11 key issues, among them diversification of supply and demand, energy efficiency, and the safeguarding of critical energy infrastructure, including against possible terror attacks.

Delegates, however, suggested that the statement is out of step with the real situation, not least because of concerns over the openness of Russia's energy markets.

``In terms of language, it's extremely positive -- it's the reality that's lacking," an EU official said yesterday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make a public statement.

The official said he was glad for the political attention paid to the issue, but said that much investment and diversification is necessary.

``There's not a lot that has changed on the ground," he said.

Diplomatic officials with the French delegation said of the statement: ``We wanted it to go much further."

Worries over Russia's reliability as a supplier were highlighted by the price fight with Ukraine that saw supplies to Europe disrupted when Moscow temporarily switched off the gas to its former-Soviet neighbor.

G8 statement on world trade


The Group of Eight world powers yesterday asked their trade negotiators and World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy to return to Geneva this week and broker a breakthrough on the stalled Doha round of trade talks within a month. The following are key points of the statement on trade issued by G8 leaders this weekend:

  • Called for a ``concerted effort" to conclude the five-year-old Doha Development Round by the end of 2006 and stressed the objective of freeing up trade to benefit the poorest countries, as well as boosting the world economy and reinforcing the multilateral system.

  • Called on Lamy to report to the 149 members of the WTO as soon as possible, ``with the aim of facilitating agreement on negotiating modalities on agriculture and industrial tariffs within a month." Key sticking points have been agreeing on the extent to which the United States cuts farm subsidies, the European Union cuts tariffs on farm goods, and developing countries open their markets to industrial goods and services.

  • The big concern now is that failure to move on agriculture in the next few weeks would mean the Doha round could be put on ice for several years, because the US president's fast-track authority to pass trade deals without a vote in Congress expires in mid-2007.

  • On agriculture, the G8 statement said: ``We are equally committed to substantially reducing trade-distorting domestic support and to the parallel elimination by the end of 2013 of all forms of export subsidies. "

  • Anti poverty campaigners widely welcomed the G8 commitment of specific amounts of new money to help the poorest producers in developing nations cope with any sudden reduction in trade supports.

  • G8 leaders today will present this consensus to Lamy and premiers from five key developing countries: Brazil, India, China, Mexico, and South Africa.

    SOURCE: Reuters

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