Scotland braces for G8, protests

A Buddhist drummer protests at a nuclear naval base in Scotland.

Monday, July 4, 2005 Posted: 1015 GMT (1815 HKT)

LONDON, England -- Protesters were continuing to mass in Scotland ahead of Wednesday's G8 summit as police braced for anarchists, anti-globalization campaigners and the possibility of a terrorist attack.

(Gold9472: That's an interesting label...)

In rural western Scotland, more than 400 protesters sat in the road to block the entrance to the major naval base for Britain's nuclear-armed Trident submarine fleet Monday.

"It is vitally important that people make the link between the industrial war machine and the poverty that so many people are suffering from around the world," protester Jenny Gaiawyn said. (Full story)

At Gleneagles, the rural site for the Group of Eight summit north of Edinburgh, 10,000 police were on standby amid watchtowers, surveillance cameras, a no-fly zone and a five-mile ring of steel around the hotel and country club.

On Sunday, the final guests at the five-star, 269-room hotel checked out to make way for the G8 leaders, while local residents in nearby Auchterarder nervously awaited a planned march Wednesday by the campaign group G8 Alternatives.

"It's the talk of the local bowling club, people are panicking, panicking," said Colin White, who works at a butcher shop.

Tayside Police Chief Constable John Vine has spent 18 months planning for the summit and the accompanying protests.

Operation Sorbus -- named after the berry of the rowan tree, which according to folklore wards off evil spirits -- includes a 6-foot-high steel mesh fence around the hotel's perimeter.

Protesters who attempt to cross the fence face immediate arrest, police say.

"It is a potential terrorist target," Vine told The Associated Press. "All our planning has been based on it both being a terrorist target and of course a target for public protest, so there is a necessity for us to have an exclusion zone."

Meanwhile, world leaders were facing fresh public pressure to reach a deal on poverty following the success of Live 8, the largest live concert ever held.

British finance minister Gordon Brown, an advocate of debt relief, said Monday he hoped the G8 summit can build on progress already made in combating poverty in Africa.

"I think we'll achieve something this week. There's still a long way to go and we'll try and make some progress in the next two or three days," Brown said.

"What we've already got is the 100 percent debt write-off for the poorest countries. It's already achieved, we've won it," Brown said in an interview on British television. "We've got a doubling of aid from Europe that's to build schools and hospitals, particularly in Africa. That's already agreed. The next stage, over the next few days, is to see if we can go further."

The impact of the Live 8 concerts could be a factor in making progress, Brown said.

"I think the power of public opinion -- and you saw a million in Philadelphia as well as hundreds of thousands out in Britain -- the power of public opinion is changing the mood and attitude of leaders of the world," he said.

Adding to the pressure was a massive protest in Edinburgh on Saturday, when more than 200,000 campaigners formed a human chain around Scotland's medieval capital and demanded that the world's most powerful nations lift Africa out of poverty. (Full story)

However, progress appeared more questionable on the issue of climate change -- which British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said is among his priorities as head of the G8 this year.

U.S. President George W. Bush, in an interview on British television on the eve of the summit, said Blair should not expect any special favors at the meeting in return for the UK government's support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Bush said he did not view his relationship with Blair as "one of quid pro quo."

"Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for keeping the peace and winning the war on terror, as I did," he told British broadcaster ITN in an interview to be shown Monday.

"So I go to the G8 not really trying to make him look bad or good, but I go to the G8 with an agenda that I think is best for our country."

Bush described climate change as "a significant, long-term issue that we've got to deal with" and acknowledged that human activity is "to some extent" to blame.

But he repeated his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and said the United States would not sign it or any similar deals limiting gas emissions. (Full story)

"If this (agreement expected at Gleneagles) looks like Kyoto, the answer is 'no,'" Bush said. "The Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy, if I can be blunt."

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