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G-8 Leaders Focus on Global Economic Growth and Bush Meeting With China's President - 2003-06-02

Leaders of the world's major industrialized countries are focusing on ways to stimulate global economic growth as they continue their discussions in the French alpine resort of Evian. U.S. President George W. Bush is leaving the G-8 summit early to personally engage in Middle East peacemaking.

The G-8 leaders devoted their first session of the summit's second day to the worrisome state of the global economy. Japan is experiencing deflation, and Germany has already entered a recession that could affect its European partners.

Diplomats at the summit say the G-8 leaders will seek to shore up confidence in prospects for economic recovery. But world markets are nervously waiting to see if they dare confront what Europeans see as an ominous slide in the dollar.

A second session Monday will deal with threats to international security like weapons proliferation. That will be followed by a brief one-on-one meeting between President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac, the most outspoken critic of the U.S.-led Iraq war. The two men have been polite to each other at the summit, but diplomats say tensions between the two countries remain.

Anti-globalization protesters have been kept away from Evian, but some of them fought running battles Sunday night with Swiss police in nearby Geneva, looting stores and trashing gasoline stations.

President Bush has invited Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit Washington later this year or early next year. Mr. Bush extended the invitation when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G-8 economic summit in Evian, France.

This was their first meeting since Mr. Hu formally assumed power in China. White House officials said the get-together went well.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions topped the agenda, with both sides stressing the need for a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

One senior White House official who sat in on the talks said they did not go as far as to discuss economic sanctions. But the official, who spoke on the condition he would not be identified, said both sides emphasized the need to work together to resolve the problem along with South Korea and Japan.

The official said they also talked about SARS. He said Mr. Bush passed along his condolences to the victims of the sometimes deadly respiratory disease, and offered praise for President Hu's leadership.

Other issues on the agenda included Taiwan, terrorism and efforts to curtail the spread of the most dangerous weapons.

President Hu, who is here as a guest of the summit, was one of only two foreign leaders to hold a one-on-one meeting with President Bush in Evian. On Monday, Mr. Bush will meet briefly with French President Jacques Chirac. Mr. Chirac was a strong opponent of military action against Iraq, but a spokeswoman said he does not want to relive the past, and plans to focus on the future.