TOYAKO // George W Bush, the US president, and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, had "fierce" arguments at last year's G8 summit. According to the former Japanese premier, Shinzo Abe, the debate between the two became heated during closed-door sessions. Mr Abe offered a glimpse from last year's "private" meetings as a lesson for Japan not to be too reserved about steering discussions as it hosts today's summit.
Last year's gathering in Germany saw "pretty fierce" discussions, particularly over climate change, Mr Abe told the Asahi television network. "In particular, president Bush and President Sarkozy had a fierce dispute," he said. "President Sarkozy was making his argument in a very strong way [in part because it was his first summit and he faced elections]." Asked if Mr Sarkozy threatened to walk out of the summit, Mr Abe said with a smile: "He said something close to that."
The French president has been known as more pro-American than his predecessor Jacques Chirac, who had a bitter feud with Mr Bush over the Iraq invasion. But the effects of climate change have tested the new friendship between Mr Sarkozy and the US president. "Summit talks never go along the scenario set in advance. Many world leaders have strong characters and talk about their views and national interests eloquently," Mr Abe said.
One of the main topics this year will be the turmoil sweeping through the markets as oil prices soar to $145 (Dh532) a barrel and the spectre of inflation hangs over the global economy. Mr Bush said yesterday that the American economy was not growing as quickly as he would like and that his administration supported a strong US dollar policy. "Our economy is not growing as robustly as we'd like," Mr Bush said after meeting the Japanese prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, ahead of the summit.
"In terms of the dollar, the United States believes in a strong policy and believes the strength of our economy will be reflected in the dollar. The relative strength of our economy will be reflected in currencies." * Agence France-Presse, Dow Jones