Genoa: Future summits put into doubt

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The Independent Online

The future of G8 summits was thrown into doubt last night after a second day of violent demonstrations in Genoa.

The leaders of the world's richest nations accepted last night that after the brutal killing of a 23-year-old Italian protester by police on Friday, and a second day of mayhem yesterday, summits on such a grand scale could never be held again.

The French President Jacques Chirac said the leaders were "traumatised" by the killing of the protester on Friday, but Tony Blair expressed anger at the way anarchist violence had wrecked an agenda aimed at tackling global health and climate change.

The second day of clashes yesterday sent up plumes of smoke on the edge of the city's massively fortified "red zone". The fighting began at 2pm on the main road along the sea front, when about 30 anarchists began throwing stones at the lines of police.

The skirmish escalated into a full-blown confrontation between the carabinieri and about 200 protesters, encouraged by about 1,000 onlookers, shouting "assassins" at the police. Cars were set on fire and one burning vehicle was pushed inside the ruins of a bank. The air filled with black smoke mixed with tear gas. From behind their lines, the police fired barrage upon barrage of tear gas to disperse the growing crowd.

The protesters, wearing helmets and gas masks, picked up the tear gas canisters and threw them back at the police. They also attacked journalists, including a Japanese TV crew.

From inside their virtual fortress, the G8 leaders issued a defiant statement, saying they would press on with the summit in spite of the siege conditions.

"It is vitally important that democratically elected leaders legitimately representing millions of people can meet to discuss areas of common concern," they said.

Mr Blair insisted G8 leaders would meet next year in Canada as planned in spite of the death of a protester on Friday. "Of course it's a tragedy that someone has lost their life," he said, "but it's important that leaders can come together and discuss things in an informal setting."

The G8 leaders – reported to be furious at the way the protesters have hijacked media headlines – said: "We will continue to focus on the issues that matter most to our people and to the wider world, such as the economy, jobs, trade and help for the poorest parts of the world."

Canada is reported to be so worried about riots that it is considering moving the summit to a remote site in the west.

"I think it is important we meet in small numbers," the European Commission president, Romano Prodi, told journalists. "It is important that we meet in a much more simple and sober way."

The Italian media complained that the summit has turned the port city into a war zone and cost colossal sums of money. Manslaughter charges may be lodged against the policeman who shot Carlo Giuliani. Mr Giuliani, the son of a trade union official, had brushed with the police in other protests but was not linked to any political movement.

The 20-year-old policeman is himself injured and under guard in hospital. He reportedly told magistrates he could not remember opening fire.

Portuguese television footage showed one policeman kicking Giuliani's lifeless body. Yesterday his parents appealed for peace. "Nothing is worth a boy's life," they said. "Nothing can return him to us."

The continuing controversy over the summit overshadowed a new partnership initiative with Africa, pioneered by Mr Blair, which will involve a pact with around 10 reforming African governments. They will agree to focus on issues such as democracy, the fight against corruption and the need for private investment.