G-8 leaders focus on common ground
War foe Chirac welcomes Bush
EVIAN, France (CNN) -- Leaders of G-8 nations, still grappling with rifts over the war in Iraq, focused the first day of their summit Sunday on an effort they all share: helping solve the economic woes of developing nations.
All eyes were on the first meeting since the Iraq war of U.S. President George W. Bush and his chief adversary in the lead-up to the Iraq war -- the host of the summit, French President Jacques Chirac.
Bush had a smile and firm handshake for Chirac -- and even a pat on the back, though eyewitnesses said Chirac was not as warm as he was with some other leaders, and eye contact was short.
But later, the two men had what Chirac called a "very positive" meeting.
Both said before the summit that they wanted to focus on the future and the goals they share, including curbing the spread of AIDS in Africa, and combating famine and poverty in poor countries.
Chirac invited leaders of 11 developing countries to the conference -- including India, Egypt, Mexico and several African nations.
After participants talked Sunday about issues facing the developing world, Chirac told reporters, "I have a feeling that tomorrow, leaders will not be tackling issues in the same way as if we hadn't had the sharing of views this afternoon."
He recommended that future G-8 meetings begin with similar sessions.
G-8 leaders at the summit also plan to talk about top economic and trade issues.
The eight economic powers were split evenly over the war in Iraq, with France, Germany, Canada and Russia opposing it, while the United States, Britain, Italy and Japan supported it.
Before arriving in France on Sunday, Bush held a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. Both men said though the U.S.-Russian relationship might have been tested by the dispute over Iraq, it remains strong. (Full story)
It was not clear whether Bush would spend much time in Evian speaking with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose staunch opposition to the war was also the subject of public U.S. criticism.
But Chirac said he and Bush would continue their discussions Monday, which he said was "in no way a source of concern or worry to me."
In the weeks before the Iraq war, U.S. officials publicly lashed out at French leadership for trying to counteract the U.S. effort to win support for military action.
Before leaving Washington, Bush said he believed it was time to "work together for a Europe which is whole, free and at peace... Rivalry will end up weakening our efforts to jointly deal with issues like security and peace and AIDS and trade."
About 25,000 antiglobalization protesters demonstrated Sunday on both sides of the French-Swiss border. The protests, which authorities kept at least 20 miles [32 kilometers] from the summit, were mostly peaceful. (Full story)
One group of demonstrators set fire to a barricade, and another trashed a gas station. A supermarket was looted as well.
Police clashed with some of the violent protesters, releasing tear gas and firing rubber pellets in hopes of dispersing the crowds.
Bush leaves Monday afternoon for Egypt, where he plans to meet with Arab leaders. Bush said he will call on them to crack down on terrorism in the Arab world and to support his initiative for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Bush will then travel to Jordan for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
-- CNN White House correspondents John King and Dana Bash contributed to this report.