Harper, Putin to meet at G8

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin as formal talks at the G8 summit in Germany are set to begin, the Kremlin and the PMO confirmed Wednesday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin as formal talks at the G8 summit in Germany are set to begin, the Kremlin and the PMO confirmed Wednesday.

TheThursday meeting willtake placeas tensions between Russia and the U.S. are climbing, and as U.S. President George W. Bush tries to soothe Putin's fears about U.S. missile defence plans.
Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen Harper walk past the guard of honour at the Rostock airport, Germany on Wednesday. ((Associated Press/Michael Sohn))

Harper said before the summit that he would bring up the issue of the Strategic Defence Initiative at the talks and will likely discuss the situation with Putin, CBC correspondent Keith Boag reported from Germany.

Communications staff from the Kremlintipped off Canadian reporters about the meeting between Putin and Harper, Boag noted.

The Prime Minister's Officerefused to confirm the meeting until later Wednesday morning, even as theKremlin told mediait would make a Russian delegation available to offer insight on the talks afterwards.

Russia won't attack: Bush

Bush, meanwhile,spoke to reporters for about an hour Wednesday in a garden at the summit site, discussing a wide range of topics including missile defence, climate change and the humanitarian disaster in Darfur.
Protesters flee a police water cannon truck near the G8 summit site of Heiligendamm, Germany. ((CBC))

"Russia's not going to attack Europe," he said, seeking to defuse heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow over Bush's plans to build a missile defence shield inPoland and the Czech Republic.

Bush, who will meet with Putin on Thursday,has called the shield a legitimate response to an Iranian threat. In response, Putinsaid he'll point Russian missiles at European cities.

"There needs to be no military response because we're not at war with Russia.… Russia is not a threat. Nor is the missile defence we'reproposing a threat to Russia," he said.

When asked if the meeting with Putin would be tense, Bushreplied: "Could be. I don't think so.… I'll work to see that it's not a tense meeting."

He also suggested Putin's strong public comments were mainly for political consumption back home.

Bush has invited Putin to a July meeting at his father's home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Police use water cannons

Formal business at the G8 begins Thursday in the northern German resort town of Heiligendamm, but the leaders are holding some meetings Wednesday.

There was a raucous start to the summit as about 10,000 demonstrators gathered outside the razor-wire fence surroundingthe venue on Wednesday. Organizers were expecting 100,000 activists from anti-poverty and anti-globalization groups outside the 11-kilometre-long fence.
An activist sits on the tarmac as police tries to move anti-G8 demonstrators blocking the road between Bad Doberan and Heiligendamm. ((Associated Press/Frank Hormann))

Stone-throwing protesters were met with jets of water as German police tried to scatter the mobs with a water cannon. Protesters also blocked access to airports and roads to the summit venue with rocks in the streets.

German soldiers and police were prepared for violent confrontationsat the annual forum that brings together the world's eight richest nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States.

Fears that militants could plan terrorist attacks on the summit escalated on Saturday afterabout 1,000 people — many ofthem police officers — were injured during mass protests in which demonstrators threw stones and Molotov cocktailsin Rostock.

Joining the motley crew of singing clowns, environmentalists and left-wing groups chanting about the G8's failure to uphold key promises weresome neo-Nazis and a small minority just looking for a fight, the CBC's David Common reported from Germany.

Anyoutcomefrom aG8 summitistypically negotiated long before the leaders arrive, but this year is expected to be one of the most unpredictable meetings in years, Common reported. Key issues are disagreements over climate change policy between Europe and the U.S., with Canada caught in the middle.

Some states also want more aid for Africa while others are non-committal.

Bush, who last week called for tighter sanctions against Sudan, said Wednesday he was frustrated with the slow pace at the United Nations.

"I'm frustrated because there are still people suffering and the UN process is moving at a snail's pace," Bush said.

With files from the Canadian Press