G20 underway in London

Thursday, April 2, 2009

London - Leaders from the Group of 20 developed and emerging economies have gathered in London to find a global solution to the current financial and economic crisis.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is also the host, said he was confident that the summit would produce a consensus on a global plan for economic recovery and reform.

"We are within a few hours, I think, of agreeing on a global plan for economic recovery and reform and I think the significance of this is that we are looking at every aspect," Mr Brown said on the eve of the summit, which took place in an exhibition center in eastern London.

Last night, the world leaders had dinner at Mr Brown's residence, Number 10 Downing Street, where they were welcomed on a red carpet before a meal cooked by a celebrity chef.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe is also attending the summit as the only official voice of the African continent.

South Africa has consistently stressed that a global response is required to mitigate the impact of the crisis and prevent its spreading to emerging markets and developing countries, in particular Africa.

The leaders of the world's industrialised and developing economies are expected to attempt to finalise a common plan to revive economic growth and stabilise the financial system.

They should also agree on an increase in the resources of the International Monetary Fund, introduce new regulations for the financial system, and stabilise the system by dealing with so called toxic assets.

The United States and the United Kingdom are pitted against the European countries over the balance between extra financial stimulus and the need for regulation, as emerging countries call for a bigger say.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had threatened to walk out of the summit, said on Wednesday that neither France nor Germany was satisfied with current proposals for an accord at the summit and warned that he would not accept any "false compromises."

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who are struggling to bridge the G20 summit gap, played down the differences but not the scope of the crisis that the summit will have to confront.

"Make no mistake, we are facing the most severe economic crisis since World War II, and the global economy is now so fundamentally interlinked that we can only meet this challenge together," Mr Obama said.

But he insisted that while the summit had a duty to produce "the most substantive outcome possible", the "separation between the various parties has been vastly over-stated".

President Obama has said stimulus and regulation are needed but the US could not shoulder all the responsibility for creating new growth.

The leaders will be locked in talks for almost five hours and a press briefing is scheduled for later today.

Meanwhile demonstrations have stepped up with already one fatality reported.

Police said the protester collapsed during demonstrations that took place outside the Bank of England on Wednesday.

Some protesters smashed their way into the offices of the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) next to the Bank of England, breaking through windows, hurling out office equipment and trying to set it ablaze.

At least 87 arrests were made for a range of offences, including violent disorder, aggravated burglary, arson, bomb threats and possession of ammunition.