WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush is set to depart Washington Tuesday to attend the Group of Eight Summit in Canada, where he is expected to ask European leaders to support his proposed economic and political reforms for the Palestinian Authority.
Bush is expected in his meetings with world leaders also to discuss development and trade, debt relief for poor countries and his plan for dealing with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"The United States, the EU, the World Bank and International Monetary Funds are willing to oversee reforms in Palestinian finances, encouraging transparency and independent auditing," Bush said Monday.
Bush made his comments from the White House Rose Garden during a highly anticipated speech on the crisis in the Middle East. It came one day before he was set to fly to Kananakis, outside Calgary, to meet with European leaders for three days of economic talks.
The president said he wants the European Union and Arab states to help Palestinian leaders create a "new constitutional framework" and help the Palestinians to organize fair, multiparty local elections by the end of the year.
Bush returns to the summit this year a more self-assured head of state who will likely not face the criticism he fielded during the meeting in Genoa, Italy, last year from his fellow leaders who opposed what they saw as his unilateral stance on issues like the environment. This year, Bush appears in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the leader of a newly forged and seemingly successful global war on terrorism.
He also returns to the summit after a year of escalating violence between the Israelis and Palestinians despite repeated U.S. efforts to broker a peace settlement.
The G8 includes: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is hosting the summit this year. The leaders will meet amid high security in the resort town of Kananakis, located in the foothills and mountains of the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary. Summit officials are hoping not to see a repeat of the anti-globalization protests at the G8 summit in Genoa that left one protester dead and extensive property damage.
The Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail reports that as many as 15,000 activists are expected in Calgary to protest the summit. Some 100,000 showed up in Italy last year. It is expected that the demonstrators will represent a wide-range of political views including labor, environmentalists, faith groups and anarchists, the newspaper said.
Bush took office nearly two years ago, perceived as a leader with little foreign policy experience. His initial message to those he now refers to as his global partners was that he would focus on hemispheric issues, but the terrorist attacks have forced him to re-evaluate that position. Instead, in the last year, he has reached out to the G8 leaders for support in the U.S. fight against al Qaida and other terror networks.
He was also under intense pressure during the 2001 summit to sign off on the Kyoto Protocol for Climate Change treaty, which he steadfastly refused to do, saying it was an ineffective pact.
It is Bush's second trip to a foreign country in a little more than a month. He will likely carry his message on development assistance for poor nations and fend off criticism of what is being viewed as protectionist trade policies.
Bush is also likely to try to gain support from European nations for action against Iraq, which the president maintains is developing chemical or biological weapons to possibly use against the West. Little support exists among Arab nations for military action. The United States would need logistical help from Saudi Arabia to launch such an attack, especially permission for use of its air bases, which the oil-rich nation will not allow.
"I do think the president is going to be looking for opportunities to try and get more support from other countries about the fundamental problem of Saddam," said James B. Steinberg, a former deputy national security adviser under former President Clinton. "I think what he will be largely trying to urge at this point is to say, 'I haven't made any decisions about military force and how to proceed, but I do believe that this is a great risk. I want you to understand why this is such a great risk, and I think we all need to speak with one voice on this.'"
On development, Bush is expected to carry with him programs he has initiated this year aimed at alleviating poverty in poor countries as a means of combating terrorist activity. In March he proposed the New Millennium Challenge Account, a $5 billion humanitarian aid fund that ties grants with specific governmental performance measures.
That amount is in addition to $17 billion in total economic development assistance the U.S. government already provides developing countries around the globe. And last week Bush announced $500 million in funding to assist HIV-infected mothers and their unborn children in Africa and the Caribbean.
The anti-poverty group ActionAid warned Monday that the world is "seriously behind schedule" for meeting the "poverty goals" set by world leaders for the year 2015. The organization call for a massive increase in aid from rich nations during the summit.
"There have been some successes at a global level, including significant cuts in child malnutrition, rising primary school enrollment, especially for girls, and improvements in conditions for women giving birth. But there are enormous regional variations, and overall the outlook, if present trends continue, is bleak," the group said in a statement.
ActionAid is calling on the G8 nations to double aid to poor countries within three years, commit $4 billion a year toward education, and double the support for fighting HIV and AIDS, among other diseases.
On trade, Bush will probably face criticism of the 10-year, $190 billion farm bill he signed in May that provides billions of dollars in agriculture subsidies. It raises subsidies for farmers who grow grain and cotton and provides new money for peanuts and milk, among other produce. Critics say it cuts off producers from developing nations.
The United States will also have to field questions on steel tariffs. The European Commission said it would impose about $300 million in duties on U.S. goods in an effort to urge the United States to reconsider its position on placing tariffs of up to 30 percent on steel products. The World Trade Organization is expected to rule on the matter next year in response to complaints from the European Union.