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Rising costs to dominate G8 talks

JAPAN, July 7 –  Rising food and fuel prices are set to top the agenda for leaders of the world\’s major industrialised nations as they start a key summit in Japan.

The hosts had hoped climate change would be a top issue at the meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) nations but the global economy is sure to dominate.

At the opening lunch, African leaders will set out the effect price rises are having on the world\’s poorest people.

The summit is also expected to tackle the difficult issue of Zimbabwe.

Food focus

The G8 summit has opened at a resort on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Leaders from member nations – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States – will be joined by counterparts from some 15 other countries, including eight African states.

Japan has spent a record sum of money and deployed about 20,000 police to seal off the remote lakeside town of Toyako for the three-day talks.  

The EU has already been spelling out plans to alleviate the food crisis.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters on the sidelines of the summit the proposed $1.6bn, $800m fund to help poor farmers in developing countries would come from unused EU subsidies.  

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The best way to help the impoverished around the world is through trade

It could help improve farmers\’ access to seeds and fertilisers, and could provide "safety net measures for the most vulnerable", he said.

The G8 leaders may also face tough questions on aid commitments to Africa.

Three years ago they promised to double aid to the continent by 2010 – but campaigners say they are falling far short of that target.

As well as discussing development issues in Africa, the G8 leaders are widely expected to condemn Robert Mugabe\’s controversial re-election in Zimbabwe last month.

As he headed to the summit, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he would discuss the crisis with African leaders there.

Zimbabwe\’s political parties should "work out an arrangement so that they can really bring back democratic rules, the rule of law and peace and stability in their country", he told the French news agency AFP.

Malaysia summit

A number of other bilateral meetings are taking place on the sidelines of the summit.

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Bush, attending his last G8 summit, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, attending his first, made little progress on the issue of the US plan for missile defence installations in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Meanwhile, the charity Water Aid has told the G8 that the single most effective measure it could take to prevent the deaths of millions of children in poor countries would be to build toilets and provide clean water.

Hundreds of protesters again marched through Sapporo on Sunday, the city closest to the venue, on the eve of the talks to demand G8 leaders take action on global warming, poverty and rising food prices.

The demonstration, which followed a similar protest on Saturday, was heavily policed and ended peacefully.

Violent anti-globalisation marches have marred past G8 meetings.

As the G8 got under way in Japan, leaders of the world\’s largest Islamic nations assembled for what is being billed as the D8 summit in Malaysia\’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, with the issue of inflation high on the agenda there.

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