G8 powers urge Yemen leader to go

Street ire: An anti-G8 activist looks on as he is surrounded by riot police officers during a protest in Paris on Thursday. AP

Leaders of the Group of Eight called on Yemen’s president to quit on Thursday, hoping to avert civil war flaring up in one part of the Arab world as they prepared to help new democracies flourish in another.

Starting a summit in the French seaside resort of Deauville, the G8 — seven Western powers plus Russia — were expected to endorse aid programs for Tunisia and Egypt, the vanguards of the Arab Spring, which has seen autocratic rulers overthrown.

But the bloodshed and fighting in the Yemeni capital Sanaa darkened any sense of congratulation and offered a stark reminder of the violence that has engulfed other states in North Africa and the Middle East, notably also Libya and Syria.

Summit host France said Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh must end his 33-year rule: “We deplore the fighting that occurred overnight which was a direct result of the current political impasse, for which President Saleh has direct responsibility due to his refusal to sign the GCC transition agreement,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.

For the United States, to whom Saleh was long an ally in its conflict with al-Qaeda, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Paris: “We continue to support the departure of President Saleh who has consistently agreed that he would be stepping down from power and then consistently reneged on those agreements.”

In Deauville, Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Satoru Satoh also urged Saleh to sign a power transition deal he had negotiated with his opponents after mediation by Gulf states.

A host of other issues crowded in on a formal agenda whose slimness reflects the diminished role of the G8 in a world in which the developing economies, such as India and China, have taken a bigger part, though wider bodies like the Group of 20.

IMF leadership

European members of the G8 — France, Germany, Britain and Italy — were expected to try to rally support from the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan for the EU candidate to run the International Monetary Fund in the face of discontent among the emerging economies, who want a bigger say at the IMF.

China raised the prospect of further wrangling over the choice of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who quit when charged with attempted rape.

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