Before settling down to the first official working group of the day, U.S. President Barack Obama detailed the issues discussed during Friday's G8 leaders dinner. Syria, Iran, North Korea and Burma, along with a birthday cake for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, were all on the table last night.
Seated between British Prime Minister David Cameron and newly elected French President Francois Hollande, a casually dressed and seemingly at ease President Obama stressed the agreement among the world's eight largest economies on a wide range of global political issues.
The president said Friday night's "frank and useful conversation" was very "fruitful." "It gives me great optimism" we'll be able to face these challenges, he said.
"We are unified when it comes to our approach with Iran," the president began after the leaders of France, the U.K, Germany, Russia, Japan and Italy were seated at a round wooden table.
Although they have decided to "continue with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions," they have hope the international community's concerns with the Islamic Republic's nascent nuclear program can be resolved peacefully.
Worries with North Korea's nuclear program engendered much of the same feeling, Obama noted, stating the DPRK's objective to rejoin the world community "will not be achieved if they continue with provocative actions" such as last month's test of a satellite with intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities.
On Syria, Obama said the leaders all support the ceasefire plan set up by United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan, but "that a political process has to move forward in a more timely fashion to resolve that situation."
But on a brighter note, the president said, the leaders were heartened by recent reforms made in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma. "All of us are hopeful that the political process...takes root [and] we're going to do everything we can to encourage that process."
The leaders also discussed the need for greater female participation in the political process worldwide - an issue palpable in the room, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the only woman present.
The president said Saturday's discussions would focus almost solely on global economic issues. The eurozone will be the number one issue on the table as well as global fiscal responsibility, uncertainty in the energy markets and the need to sustain development in Afghanistan.
The meeting was attended by Obama, Cameron, Hollande, Merkel, Noda (who celebrates his 54th birthday today), Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, sitting in for President Vladimir Putin. The discussions will continue throughout the day before many of the group leave for the NATO meeting in Chicago.
by RTT Staff Writer
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