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G-8 leaders focus on Africa, food, climate as summit opens in Japan (July 7, 2008)

African development and the global challenges of climate change, food security and fuel price rises will top the agenda at the annual Group of Eight summit beginning Monday in Japan.

The leaders of the G-8 leading countries will start the three-day meeting at Hokkaido's Lake Toya resort with an outreach dialogue with the heads of seven key African countries.

They will review the implementation of G-8 pledges and hear about African needs, especially amid the food crisis and world economic concerns. The input will be reflected in core G-8 sessions Tuesday.

They will seek to agree on ways to step up helping Africa meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals by 2015, particularly in terms of health-related issues.

Health issues are seen as the area among the eight goals where Africa lags behind the most.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States are expected to review progress on G-8 pledges made at the 2005 Gleneagles summit and reaffirm their commitments, notably the doubling of aid to Africa by 2010.

The main concern is medium- and long-term support for infrastructure and capacity building to secure sustainable and stable food supply in Africa, the continent hardest-hit by soaring food and fuel prices.

The G-8 also plans to commit to helping train doctors and nurses to fill the shortage of health workers.

The G-8 will encourage African countries to improve their investment climate and continue efforts toward economic and political reform to sustain the positive growth of recent years.

The political chaos and violence in Zimbabwe with regard to its one-man presidential election last month is also likely to be on the agenda. But no written statement is expected on it from the G-8 leaders Monday.

In a meeting with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura on Sunday evening in Tokyo, African Union chairman Jean Ping noted the difficulty of resolving the situation in Zimbabwe as countries in southern Africa have divided positions, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

The heads of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, the AU Commission, the United Nations and the World Bank are invited to attend Monday's outreach session.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, chair of this year's summit, will hold a series of bilateral talks with his counterparts from Britain, Germany, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria on the sidelines.

The G-8 and other leaders will meet amid intense security across Hokkaido and major cities throughout Japan, with about 20,000 police officers mobilized to seal off access to the summit venue tucked away on top of a hill.

==Kyodo

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