G-8 Leaders Gather In Georgia

CAROUSEL - FOR VANITY FAIR FEB. 2010 - Compared to six months ago are you better off or worse off?
CBS
As President Bush plays host Tuesday to world leaders critical of his Iraq policies, White House officials are hoping the Group of Eight summit proves a turning point where he and his adversaries on the war permanently set aside their differences on the war.

After a day of prepping for the summit, that also gave him a chance to go biking and fishing, President Bush gets down to the business of diplomacy Tuesday. CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports as chiefs of state and heads of government arrive at Sea Island, off the Georgia coast, Mr. Bush will hold individual meetings Tuesday with the prime ministers of Japan and Canada, the chancellor of Germany and the president of Russia.

Tuesday evening, President Bush will have dinner with all the G-8 leaders. Above all else, Mr. Bush is looking for a show of support for the soon-to-be sovereign interim government of Iraq.

Iraq's new interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer, is among the dignitaries arriving at Sea Island, invited there by President Bush to underscore the urgency of Iraq receiving international backing for efforts to help democracy take root in Iraq.

Iraq and the broader Mideast have eclipsed the official economic agenda of the annual gathering of industrial powers - the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia.

But summit officials said they intend to announce agreement Tuesday on fighting famine on the Horn of Africa, eradicating polio, cutting poverty and developing an HIV vaccine. A G-8 declaration on promoting democracy in the Middle East is expected on Wednesday.

Bush administration officials say they sense an opening on Iraq, thanks to a combination of positive developments and what they see as the absence of the bitter disagreements that have characterized other recent summits.

The White House believes it has all but secured a U.N. Security Council resolution to endorse the handover of political power to Iraqis in three weeks and to authorize a U.S.-led force to remain in Iraq. Tuesday, France signaled that it is prepared to vote for the U.N. resolution, which it says includes many - although not all - French ideas.

Also on the plus side for the U.S., an agreement was announced Monday by nine political parties in Iraq to dissolve their militias, integrating some of the 100,000 fighters into the army and police.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials acknowledge their previous goal of drawing in more foreign troops is all but gone. Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said the hope now is that the new resolution would convince those countries with troops already in Iraq to "stay the course."

The administration launched an unprecedented effort here to throw a spotlight on what it views as a good news story, arranging wall-to-wall interviews between journalists and normally invisible White House aides in the National Security Council and from other corners of the White House.

The administration also is pursuing a broader effort to spur the spread of democracy in the Middle East at large. European and Arab nations have been leery of any plan that involves the United States dictating to the region what it should do.

In response to complaints from European countries, a G-8 document to be released Wednesday will stress the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The final document also will press Mideast governments to step up efforts at promoting democracy and human rights and encourage greater participation by non-governmental groups, according to a senior U.S. official who briefed hundreds of journalists only under condition that his name not be used.

U.S. officials said a swelling population of undereducated and underemployed young people in the Middle East has to have hope for a better future if the world is to avoid rising extremism.

"The idea that we were somehow buying stability by turning a blind eye to the absence of freedom has been exposed, and exposed in the form of extremism," Rice told reporters at a media center in Savannah, some 80 miles north of the summit site.

The G-8 countries reached consensus on four humanitarian issues, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Each measure seems tailored to burnish President Bush's "compassionate conservative" credentials in an election year.

On famine in the Horn of Africa, the eight countries are to endorse efforts to improve worldwide hunger-monitoring and response efforts, to raise agricultural production and bring "food security" to 5 million Ethiopians by 2009.

They are agreeing to take "all necessary steps" to eradicate polio by next year. The disease remains a problem in 15 countries.

On fighting poverty, they are backing efforts to allow migrant workers to send money home less expensively by cutting in half transaction costs, which can reach 15 percent. They are placing special emphasis on the Mideast.

They are also announcing a Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise program to accelerate the development of a vaccine against the AIDS virus. The initiative would streamline research and development efforts.