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G-8 rift with Russia over Libya campaign

By Jamey Keaten

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 12:20 p.m. MDT

DEAUVILLE, France — Russian resistance to the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya caused a rift at talks among world powers Thursday, France's president said, highlighting the difficulty in making sure Arab uprisings have peaceful endings.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted at a Group of Eight summit in Normandy that the international military operation has posed problems. But he insisted that the 2-month-old operation has been necessary to protect civilians and encourage democratic movements throughout the Arab world.

"I'm not saying the intervention we have made ... hasn't posed problems. It's not an easy decision to commit soldiers," he said. He said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi "has to leave power."

Sarkozy met Thursday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and said "there is a big convergence of views with Russia."

Russia's ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, told The Associated Press that the NATO campaign has gone "too far." As a result, he said, Russia doesn't want to support a U.N. resolution warning Syria about its crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Discussion of Arab uprisings has dominated the G-8 summit, overshadowing concerns about deficits and joblessness in the Group of Eight nations: the United States, France, Britain, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada.

A draft declaration under discussion at the summit urges Libya and Syria to halt violence but contains no specific sanctions against Libya and Syria, according to two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the document is still under discussion.

At talks Friday, G-8 leaders plan to marshal their combined economic might behind the grass-roots democracy movements. U.S. and other officials say it's too soon to reach a deal on dollar amounts for assistance to the Arab world.

This year the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia and the Arab League will join the summit discussions. Egypt and Tunisia, where popular revolts this year overthrew authoritarian regimes, want to show they are still sound investment destinations — even though the future shape and policies of their governments remain unclear.

Concerns about Europe's debt crises did fuel discussions on the sidelines about who should take over as head of the International Monetary Fund, which loans billions of dollars to the world economy and has been instrumental in shoring up the euro currency. Europeans have rallied around French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, but the United States and China have yet to endorse a candidate, and developing countries want to see one of their own in the job.

The arrest of Serbian war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic shook up the summit in Deauville, prompting European optimism that it may pave the way for EU membership for Serbia.

Google's Eric Schmidt, at the G-8 summit for a special session on the future of the Internet along with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, noted the important role that online freedom of expression and activism played in the Arab world revolts.

"The Internet clearly helped people who were willing to risk their lives to move their countries to a move democratic process. I think in a small way, we all helped — and were happy to have helped — them achieve a much better outcome," he told reporters in Deauville.

Schmidt also highlighted divisions among the G-8 governments on how to regulate the Internet without slowing down its innovation.

"All of us believe that copyright is important, but we also believe that free expression, fair use and so forth is also very important. Finding a path through that is not something that can be summarized in one sentence," he said.

Sarkozy, a proponent of more government rules for the Internet, said online businesses realize they have "duties" to respect intellectual property and they decided Thursday to work together and propose solutions.

Heavy security in Deauville and elsewhere in France has so far deterred the kind of mass demonstrations that have disrupted G-8 summits in the past. Paris police stopped one of several protests planned in Paris against the summit, detaining some 50 demonstrators on Thursday.

Angela Charlton in Deauville contributed to this report.

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