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North Africa, Middle East Top Priority At G8 Summit


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, Mr. Obama is also using the summit to meet one on one with some of the other G8 leaders, including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Mike McFaul, who oversees Russian affairs on the National Security Council, says talks which once focused almost exclusively on arms control now cover a wide range of issues, from the popular uprisings in the Middle East to Russia's goal of entering the World Trade Organization.

NORRIS: And one way to think about it is we're developing a kind of normal relationship with Russia, something that one could not have said two and a half years ago.

HORSLEY: Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says the two presidents, who are both lawyers and about the same age, have also developed a comfortable personal rapport.

NORRIS: They had a conversation, and frankly, they also joke around a lot. The reason that they can talk about the issues they're talking about now is because the amount of time they've invested in that personal relationship.

HORSLEY: McFaul says Mr. Obama has tried repeatedly to reassure Medvedev that America's missile defense is aimed elsewhere, that it's stopping attacks from rouge states like Iran, for example. McFaul says Mr. Obama wants to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, not set off another arms race.

NORRIS: Both presidents firmly stated nobody has an interest in that. Neither side has an interest in returning to those dark days.

HORSLEY: David Lipton, who's one of the president's advisers on international economics, says Middle Eastern countries don't just need political reform, they also need more jobs.

NORRIS: We believe that these two pillars go hand in hand. Without economic modernization, it will be hard for governments trying to democratize to show people that democracy delivers.

HORSLEY: Lipton says the European Commission has also volunteered to pop more money into the region, and leaders at the G8 summit will be asked to do their part as well.

NORRIS: We feel as though our efforts are being echoed now by our European partners, and all of this will help strengthen the stability of Egypt and Tunisia.

HORSLEY: British Prime Minister David Cameron says G8 countries have not only an economic stake in the success of the new democracies but a security interest as well.

P: If they succeed, there is new hope for those living there, and there is the hope of a better and safer world for all of us. But if they fail, if that hunger is denied, then some young people in that region will continue to listen to the poisonous narrative of extremism.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, at the G8 summit, Deauville, France. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.