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G8 leaders, spouses make wishes at Toyako summit
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14:07, July 08, 2008

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Leaders of the Group of Eight countries and the first ladies on Monday made wishes in line with the Japanese tradition on Tanabata, or the Star Festival, by writing them down on pieces of paper hung out on bamboo shrubs.

The summit gathering U.S. President George W. Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as well as the leaders of France, Germany and Italy is making headlines across the world for its political influence as well as its glamor.

The first ladies, including Fukuda's wife Kiyoka, U.S. first lady Laura Bush and Russian first lady Svetlana Medvedeva, made their wishes as they walked along a stairway through the shrubs and decorated with tubes to symbolize a bridge.

Tanabata has its origin in Chinese folklore. Legend has it that two lovers, one from the divine world and the other from the mundane, were separated by the Silver River, created by the girl's disagreeing guardian and grandmother. They were later allowed to meet once each year on July 7 on a bridge. The Japanese festival differs by including its wish-making tradition.

It was not immediately clear what wishes the first wives made on the rainy first day of the three-day summit. But Fukuda had voiced his wishes before playing host.

"I intend to lead the way toward making our wishes come true while delivering the message to the world that wishes will come true if we work for them in real earnest," the 71-year-old Fukuda said in a welcome message published in the Japanese Times, referring to the series of thorny issues to be discussed at the summit.

The leaders were expected to discuss, and possibly seek solutions to, surging oil and food prices across the world and the severe impact of global climate change, among others.

Fukuda wrote that he wished to "know what's going on currently and strive for innovative ideas," a term known as having come from The Confucius, a Chinese Classic.

It was certainly not a wish that will come true as differences obviously remain among G8 countries over what actions should be taken to combat global warming.

The leaders are expected to reach consensus on the target of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while the jury is still out on a mid-term target for 2020.

Aid to Africa is also a topic of controversy as the G8 countries have lagged behind the steps required for honoring the commitments they have made in Gleneagles, in 2005, to double aid to Africa by 2010.

But the younger people are obviously making their own wishes and hoping to get heard as representatives of an alternative summit, as they handed in recommendations to the G8 leaders at the Windsor Hotel in the resort of Toyako.

Environmental protection groups are also campaigning with a lights-out event that involved cities including the capital Tokyo and Sapporo, capital of the northern major island prefecture of Hokkaido, to reduce by about 475 tons carbon dioxide emissions.

NGOs were making beautiful wishes as well, with a campaign coordinated by the World Wildlife Fund calling for a binding mid-term target for emission cuts by 2020.

The non-governmental 2008 Japan G8 Summit NGO Forum and the Hokkaido People's Forum on the G8 Summit have also organized an alternative People's summit in Sapporo. But Hugo Dobson, a researcher from the University of Sheffield, England, said the activists' chances of getting their voices fed into the G8 Summit were "rather limited."

Nevertheless, the importance of the G8 summit as a platform for dialogue, rather than diminishing, is obviously increasing, as can be seen from its ever-expanding media center.

Apart from media interest in the summit, attention is also focusing on the attire of the leaders and the first ladies, who were entertained by dancers on Monday evening in Toyako.


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