Curtain call for Bush as APEC summit wraps

November 23, 2008

, LIMA, November 23 – Asia-Pacific leaders on Sunday were to wrap up a summit in which they vowed a united front against the world finance crisis but with bold initiatives looking unlikely to emerge before the meeting adjourned.

US President George W. Bush used his final summit before leaving office to encourage continuity on the part of his successor Barack Obama on issues ranging from North Korean nuclear talks to free trade.

"We refuse to accept protectionism in the 21st century," Bush said emphatically Saturday.

His was one of a series of anti-protectionist statements made as the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum got underway in the Peruvian capital Lima on Saturday.

The 21-member grouping which accounts for half the world\’s trade activity issued a statement that also urged reform of global financial institutions, echoing the Group of 20 summit held in Washington the previous weekend.

"We reiterate our firm belief that free market principles and open trade and investment regimes will continue to drive global growth, employment and poverty reduction," said the one-page communiqué.

The statement was light on details, however, and there was no indication strong measures would be announced in a final statement Sunday to address a financial crisis that has shown no sign of improving.

Attention was likely to turn somewhat on Sunday to the lighthearted annual "family photo" of regional leaders clad in attire unique to the host country, the signature feature of the gathering.

Before Sunday\’s closing session gets under way, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese leader Hu Jintao were to meet, Russian officials said, for talks expected to further spotlight the two powers\’ increasingly close relationship and its potential as a check on US power.

Russia and the United States have had a tense relationship recently due to disputes including US plans to erect a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

The United States says the plan is aimed at a potential Iranian missile threat but Russia has hotly opposed it as a provocation.

However, Bush and Medvedev made soothing noises during a Saturday bilateral meeting, calling for a "practical" approach to their relationship, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The leaders agreed "not to get hung up on such problems that always exist between big powers," Lavrov told reporters.

In an another high-profile meeting on Saturday, Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak gathered to jointly press North Korea over a stalled six-nation pact on ending its nuclear program.

The three leaders called on North Korea to draft a document showing how it will carry out the landmark disarmament-for-aid deal.

Aso said afterward that Bush promised to impress upon Obama — who takes office in January facing a host of major problems — the importance of continuing the drive for a negotiated disarmament of North Korea.

Summit leaders were to issue a final declaration on Sunday amid broad consensus that change is needed in the global financial system but little clear indication yet of how to get there.

President Hu of China on Saturday repeated his country\’s stance that efforts to address the current crisis should include giving developing countries such as itself a greater voice in bodies like the International Monetary Fund.

Any world financial reforms "should seek a balance among the interests of all parties and reflect, in particular, the interests of emerging markets and developing countries," Hu said.

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