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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, Africa Emerge Winners From G-8 Summit

The annual meeting of the world's eight most economically powerful countries produced a surprising number of winners, and few losers, for a summit convened in seclusion and under extraordinary post-Sept. 11 security.

Leaders attributed the remote location and their unprecedented freedom to move within a tight security cordon for their achievements during the two-day summit that ended Thursday: a broad commitment to spur African development, billions of dollars to secure Russia's vulnerable weapons stockpiles and Russia's full membership in the Group of Eight wealthy nations.

Despite concerns that U.S. President George W. Bush's Middle East initiative and focus on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat would hijack the summit, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien kept the course he charted, winning support for twin aid packages during meetings at a Rocky Mountain resort.

Leaders forged a pact with African nations pledging development aid, foreign investment and additional debt relief to countries that show progress eliminating government corruption and pursuing free-market reforms.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the plan could be "a turning point in African history." Activists, however, complained that the program was not adequate to help the continent meet the UN goal of cutting extreme poverty in half and getting millions of children into school by 2015.

But Chretien said the plan would give countries that want to make reforms the support they need. "Today we have acted collectively to make sure that globalization benefits all and no continent is left behind," he said.

The leaders also pledged up to $20 billion over 10 years to help Russia dispose of its deadly arsenal of aging nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

President Vladimir Putin denied there was a threat that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists but said Russia was grateful for assistance in eliminating them.

Russia was drawn even tighter into the community of democratic nations during the summit, gaining full membership in the Group of Eight beginning in 2006. Now Russian leaders will join financial discussions as well as political ones.

The move reflects Moscow's enhanced relationship with the West since the terrorist attacks in the United States.

"In Kananaskis the seven members of the club invited Russia to become a full member of 'the eight,' in other words Russia will participate fully in all organs that exist with the Group of Eight." Interfax reported Andrei Illarionov, an adviser to Putin, as saying Friday. "The final step has been taken in a process that Russia started 11 years ago when representatives of the former Soviet Union participated in the first meeting of this club."

From Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2006, Russia will chair the G-8.

"This means that Russia will not simply be a full participant, but over the course of the entire year representatives of the Russian Federation will chair each working group in each organ of the eight," Illarionov said.

In a preview, Russia has invited leaders from the European Union along with the other G-8 members to meet in St. Petersburg on May 31, 2003, on the eve of a summit of G-8 leaders in France.

(Reuters, MT)