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G8 summit gathers, focused on growth amid budget cut row

TORONTO, June 25- The United States urged Europe to reform its economies to raise growth as world leaders gathered for a summit Friday, amid tension over US warnings about the global recovery.

The United States has expressed concern about the speed at which European nations, particularly Germany, are withdrawing state spending put in place after global financial crisis and economic downturn.

US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said: "Our job is to make sure we\’re all sitting there together to focus on this challenge of growth and confidence because growth and confidence are paramount."

Geithner played down America\’s differences with Europe telling the BBC the two sides "have much more in common than we have differences."

He said the summit offered US leaders "the chance to sit together and look at whether we\’ve got a broad strategy across the country that\’s going to strengthen this recovery."

Europe "can make a choice to put in place the reforms and policies that will provide the possibility of stronger growth rates in the future," he said, as thousands of officials, journalists and activists descended on an eastern Ontario province.

US President Barack Obama was to fly Friday from Washington to take part in a working lunch with other leaders of the Group of Eight leading economic powers, as they hammer out talks on the best way to coax global economic recovery.

Budget cuts have become a pressing issue in Europe since the Greek debt crisis, and because of risks that similar problems could arise in other eurozone countries.

But US officials have argued that unduly rapid and deep budget cuts could endanger global economic recovery and even provoke a so-called double-dip recession.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has argued however that the German model of deficit cutting and disciplined public finances, and a focus on economic efficiency, is the one to be followed.

"I think that there will be very fruitful, but also very contentious, debates on this issue," Merkel acknowledged.

On Friday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in Paris that if France did not show determination in fighting overspending, businesses and consumers would fear uncertainty and tax rises. They would then defer spending, and this was the real danger for growth.

Geithner said: "Everyone agrees that those deficits have to come down over time to a level that\’s sustainable," he said. But he warned the world "cannot depend as much on the US as it did in the past."

The treasury secretary\’s remarks appeared to put the emphasis on structural economic reforms in Europe.

He said economic growth is of "paramount" importance, as leaders from the G8 richest nations gather under a tight security blanket at an exclusive resort in remote Huntsville, Muskoka, about 220 kilometers (140 miles) north of Toronto.

European Union president Herman Van Rompuy told journalists the key themes of the G8 talks were "growth and confidence," with the leaders first set to hold a working lunch to discuss the world economy.

"The global recovery is progressing better than previously envisioned, although at different speeds," Rompuy said.

"Restoring confidence in budgetary policies goes hand in hand with growth strategies."

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The talks also planned to tackle global security and development, amid calls to deliver on past promises.

After the conclusion of Friday\’s gathering, officials were to attend a second summit on Saturday and Sunday as the Group of 20 developed and emerging nations convene, with 20,000 police deployed for a huge billion-dollar security operation.

For the first time the leaders are publishing figures in a bid to "provide a candid assessment on what the G8 has done," they said in a report.

The so-called Muskoka Accountability Report lists country by country the pledges each nation has made since 2002 in key areas such as aid, economic development, health and food security and how far they have met them.

"In some areas, the G8 can point to considerable success; in others it has further to go to deliver fully on its promises," the report says.

US President Barack Obama said he was calling for "a new era of engagement that yields real results for our people — an era when nations live up to their responsibilities and act on behalf of our shared security and prosperity."

British Prime Minister David Cameron, making his first appearance at a major summit since taking power last month, also suggested such meetings rarely resulted in "tangible global action."

"Too often these international meetings fail to live up to the hype and to the promises made," he wrote in an editorial in Canada\’s daily Globe and Mail.

"So the challenge for the upcoming G8 and G20 is to be more than just grand talking shops."

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