Bush goes to Sea Island hoping to bridge gulf in transatlantic relations

Leaders of the US and its fractious allies gather here today for a summit at which President Bush will seek a blessing for his strategy in Iraq and try to repair the biggest rift in transatlantic relations in decades.

The annual G8 meeting, the central part of an intense month of diplomacy for Mr Bush, has arrived under mixed auspices. Prospects have been given a boost by the show of unity at last weekend's D-Day anniversary ceremonies, and by the likelihood of swift passage of a new American-British resolution at the United Nations. This will give a vital international imprimatur to the 30 June transfer of sovereignty in Iraq.

The once-ballyhooed initiative that was to have been the centrepiece of the three-day gathering, aimed at promoting democracy and free markets in the Islamic world, has, however, fizzled to near insignificance. Dubbed the Greater Middle East Initiative when it was launched last winter, the scheme ran into withering criticism from some Arab countries, who complained it was yet another instance of Western powers trying to impose their ways upon the Middle East.

It was hastily renamed the Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative, and several more contentious provisions dropped. The project has now been rechristened yet again, as Partnership for Progress and a Common Future between East and West, but even so divisions over its contents remain. Although the leaders of Turkey, Jordan and some smaller Arab states will attend the summit, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, arguably the key US allies in the region, have refused to attend the event.

And problems persist within the G8 itself. While they are unlikely to provoke an open clash, France and Russia are unhappy about parts of the scheme, even though its focus is now primarily economic.

Meanwhile, Washington's perceived favouritism towards Ariel Sharon in the Arab-Israeli conflict, not to mention the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, has eroded much of what US credibility remained in the region, and its claim to be bringing civilised values. Security at the resort where the talks will be held, and at Savannah, where officials and the media will be based, is stifling. An exclusion area has been imposed around Sea Island, where coastguard vessels with machine guns patrol the coastal waters.

The sole access road is cut by roadblocks and guarded by black-uniformed secret service men. In Savannah itself, which is 80 miles to the north, sand-coloured Humvee military vehicles were yesterday patrolling the elegant antebellum streets and squares. If the UN deal sticks, it will augur well not just for the summit, but for Mr Bush's chances of turning the occasion into a plus for his troubled re-election campaign. The President will be able to present himself as a unifying, rather than divisive figure, with a credible Iraq exit strategy.

Tonight Mr Bush is holding a working dinner with the other leaders of the G8, from France, the US, Italy, Germany, Canada, Japan and Russia, to kick off proceedings. Apart from the various crises in the Middle East, the G8 leaders will also address weapons proliferation and surging oil prices, as well as Third World debt.

The summit will also produce a joint initiative to improve travel security, by sharing data on lost and stolen passports, and other means of making flights safer. But a project for a five-year $660m fund to help countries that join international peacekeeping ventures, was still uncertain, 24 hours before the summit began. France, Germany and Japan have doubts about the scheme.

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice