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People power demo steals G8 show

PEOPLE power came to Birmingham yesterday in a protest against Third World debt that brought the Prime Minister back from his rural G8 summit retreat and forced a response from the leaders, writes Louise Jury.

A chain of 50,000 people linked hands around the summit venue. Tony Blair told campaigners: "Your presence is a truly impressive testimony to the solidarity of people in our countries with those in the world's poorest and most indebted."

The world leaders said they would ensure the "speedy and determined implementation" of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative aiming to put at least 15 of the 20 poorest states on track to debt relief by 2000.

The peace process in Northern Ireland also won G8 backing. The leaders' statement said: "We hope it will achieve the widest possible support, not only as a basis for political stability and peace but also as an opportunity for economic development and prosperity for all Northern Ireland's people."

Leaders also endorsed a plan to tackle international crime, focusing on drugs and computer crime. Mr Blair said: "Organised crime is a global threat and we in the G8 will not stand idly by while it continues to grow.

"We will begin immediate practical measures to start the fight-back against the evil trade in human beings and drugs and hi-tech fraud." The Prime Minister's call for "a global response" was followed by a stronger-than- expected G8 statement.

The statement came after a startling briefing from the head of the National Crime Squad, Roy Penrose, who said the world was "on the threshold of a hi-tech crime boom". He called for wider co-operation between governments and more resources.

n Violence erupted at a protest by the Reclaim The Streets pressure group in Birmingham last night. Riot police made several arrests after bottles were thrown and a car was set on fire. One policeman was injured.

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