The real messages sent at G-8 summit

Getting postwar bearings, leaders wrestle with US dominance and a global economy.

Despite some progress on his preferred topics of terrorism and weapons nonproliferation, President Bush confronted at this week's gathering of world leaders in France a reality of resistance to US power that is likely to mark a range of future US-world relations.

French President Jacques Chirac was the most direct in citing much of the world's concerns about the United States in the post-Iraq-war world. In a press conference Sunday that was part of the G-8 meeting of the world's industrialized countries, Mr. Chirac said he has "no doubt whatsoever that the multipolar vision of the world that I've discussed many times is supported by a large majority of countries."

But the chafing at American demands of cooperation also came through in comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin in reference to US concerns over Iran's nuclear program. Mr. Putin said in a joint news conference with President Bush that the positions of the two countries "are much closer than they seem."

But then he added pointedly that Russia also "rejects" any effort to use allegations of Iran's intentions to employ a nuclear power plant the Russians are building as a "pretext" to assist "unfair competition against us."

For some American analysts, that comment was Putin playing to a domestic audience that is suspicious of the US, was roundly opposed to the war in Iraq, and has not seen the benefit of Putin's close personal relationship with Bush. With Putin facing crucial legislative elections in December, and then his own re-election bid next year, the Russian leader needs to resist looking as if he is bending too far to US demands, experts say.

Merits of a 'multipolar' world

Putin, like Chirac, has also won points in the past in speaking about the merits of a "multipolar" world that is not dominated by a single superpower.

But Bush - who left the summit of world leaders (set to end Tuesday) on Monday to continue on to two crucial summits in the Middle East - sounded a parting note of cooperation that built on two meetings intended to mend fences with Chirac.

"A united Europe working with America can do a lot of good ... on such issues as fighting terror [and] working on matters such as proliferation," Bush said. In return, the French announced a new deployment of troops to Afghanistan.

Bush also met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and made progress on the issue of North Korea, according to US officials. The Chinese say that North Korea has dropped demands that it meet solely with the US. It has agreed to discuss its nuclear-weapons program with other regional countries present.

The White House, too, appears to have moved on the issue. It is now apparently willing to consider direct talks with the North Koreans if other countries are present at the meetings.

The Bush administration was also hoping for support for developing a set of international laws that would make the sale and transporting of weapons and weapons materials more difficult.

Despite wide agreement that a confluence of weapons proliferation and international terrorism is at the top of the world's "worry list," however, some countries are also concerned that, in the wake of the war in Iraq, the US could use such new weapons-banning legislation to enhance its own vision of counterterrorism.

Angst over the dollar

On economic issues as well, leaders attempted to project a sense of cooperation even as domestic concerns dominate their actions. Bush told the group that he continues to support a strong dollar, even as European and other leaders worry that the policy is hurting their exports and causing economic woes at home.

"In the world today, you need to work globally on all these issues, whether terrorism or the economy, but at the same time your first concern is to feed your own people," says Leon Charney, a foreign-policy adviser in the Carter administration. "The tricky part, especially when the world economy is in bad straits, is integrating the two. We'll see if the countries that play a decisive role in the global economy are sophisticated enough and inclined enough to do it."

Mr. Charney says he believes that in the long run, a wide, if initially grudging, respect for what the US accomplished by removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq will encourage countries to move beyond their concerns to greater cooperation on the issues the White House is emphasizing. But he says results may yet take a while.

Wire service material was used in this report.

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