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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
music

News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary General Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Southampton: We are looking for Primary School ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album