Harper urges G8 to take unified stand against Zimbabwe

The Group of Eight industrialized nations must speak out in one voice against the results of Zimbabwe's election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said Sunday.

The Group of Eight industrialized nations must speak out in one voice against the results of Zimbabwe's election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said in Japan on Sunday.

But any action flowing from this week's G8 meeting in Japan is unlikely to include sanctions against the Zimbabwean government.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, and his son Ben arrive at New Chitose Airport, near Sapporo, Japan, on Sunday for the G8 summit. ((Itsuo Inouye/Associated Press))

The G8 leaders will likely use last week's statement by their foreign affairs ministers as a model for their own statement, a Japanese official said.

"This foreign ministers' statement will form a good basis for G8 leaders to discuss the G8 leaders' response on the ongoing situation in Zimbabwe," said Kazuo Kodama of Japan's foreign affairs ministry.

"This statement does not include any reference on sanctions," he said.

The G8 foreign ministers called the actions of the Zimbabwean authorities deplorable and said they would "not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people."

But the statement stopped short of threatening sanctions against Robert Mugabe's government.

Mugabe claimed victory in last month's roundly criticized presidential run-off ballot. He was the only candidate in voting after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled his name from the ballot following a campaign of threats, violence and abduction against his supporters.

Harper's office said the prime minister and his Japanese counterpart, Yasuo Fukuda, agreed "there is a need for a strong standalone G8 statement on Zimbabwe."

Such a statement could be made as early as Monday, when G8 leaders meet with the heads of eight African countries and the chair of the African Union Commission.

African nations represented

The African nations are on hand to discuss the need for development and peace building on their continent.

Meanwhile, it's looking less likely there will be a breakthrough on efforts to combat climate change at this year's G8 summit

The Conservative government has sought to temper expectations that this year's summit will yield hard targets to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment Minister John Baird told journalists aboard the prime minister's plane Saturday that he doubts the G8 leaders will leave Japan with firm reduction goals in hand.

Baird said next year's United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a more likely venue for setting greenhouse-gas targets.

"I don't think we're expecting a deal will come until the United Nations auspices in Copenhagen next year," he said. "What we hope is we can get some momentum towards solid progress."

Kodama said the Japanese government hopes the G8 leaders will make progress on last year's summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. There, G8 leaders said they would "consider seriously" halving global emissions by 2050.

But Kodama acknowledged a climate change pact would lack teeth if it did not include big polluters such as China and India.