Obama, Medvedev meeting shows continued mistrust

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

"It requires a lot of effort, and it requires continuing in the same vein, full of trust, with relations full of trust, between the two presidents," the Russian president said. "It does not mean that we'll have common views and coinciding views on all the issues. It's impossible, and it's not worth trying."

After their one-on-one meeting, Obama and Medvedev walked the short distance to the G-8 summit site to meet the host, French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Along the way, Obama stopped to shake hands with onlookers behind metal barricades, many wearing blue plastic ponchos against the overcast skies at this seaside resort.

Obama planned to use the summit to work with leading economies on ways to support fledgling democratic transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, while also creating incentives to encourage other countries in the region to pursue greater political freedoms.

The summit comes on the heels of Obama's sweeping address at London's Westminster Hall Wednesday, where he cast the U.S., Britain and other allies in Europe as the world's "greatest catalysts for global action." He planned to echo a similar theme in his discussions with G-8 partners on the recent Arab uprisings and argue that the political protesters in the Middle East and North Africa share their democratic values.

Obama will also hold one-on-one meetings with Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the first between the two leaders since the March earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan that sparked fears of a nuclear meltdown at the damaged Fukushima plant.

The G-8 comprises the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Russia and Japan. The European Union is also represented.

Interim prime ministers from Tunisia and Egypt, where longtime leaders were pushed out of power earlier this year, will join the summit Friday for a special session aimed at identifying their nations' most critical needs as they move toward elections. U.S. officials have said other Arab countries that embark on democratic transitions could also receive financial help.

In a letter to G-8 leaders Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged the summit partners to help Egypt swap its debt for investments in job creation.

While the U.S. is holding up Tunisia and Egypt as the most successful models to emerge from the Arab unrest thus far, both face significant obstacles on their paths toward democracy. Tunisia has imposed periodic curfews and detained about 1,400 people in continued protests, and in Egypt, sectarian violence has broken out, with Muslims and Coptic Christians clashing in the streets.

Obama will also face questions at the summit about the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Obama said Wednesday that the operation has no clear end date, though he contended it ultimately would be successful in stopping Moammar Gadhafi's attacks on civilians.

Also likely to be discussed are the U.S. troop drawdown plan in Afghanistan, Obama's renewed push for Middle East peace and the continued steps the world's leading economies are taking to recover from the global downturn.

After the summit wraps up Friday afternoon, Obama was to travel to Poland, the last stop on his four-country, six-day tour of Europe that began Monday in Ireland.

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