AFP: Riot hits London as G20 leaders meet
Agence France-Presse
Published: Wednesday April 1, 2009

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World leaders wrangled Wednesday on how a London summit could fix the global economy as demonstrators attacked a bank in an anti-capitalist riot in the British capital (Video appears below).

Demonstrators laid siege to the Bank of England and smashed the windows of a nearby bank that has become a symbol of the financial crisis rescue carried out by the British government which will be discussed at Thursday's Group of 20 summit in the city.

Several thousand invaded the main financial district and tensions spilled over when protesters smashed their way into a major branch of Royal Bank of Scotland, which was state-owned last year.

Other anti-capitalist and anti-war activists fought police, hurling paint and smoke bombs, bottles, cans and shoes at police outside the central bank. A second demonstration with about 2,000 people gathered outside the US embassy which was also protected by hundreds of police.

The street battle went ahead as world leaders gathered amid disputes over the best way to get out of the economic crisis.

France and Germany demanded tough action by the summit and President Barack Obama warned the United States could no longer be counted on to be the "voracious consumer" which would lead worldwide growth.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France and Germany rejected the current summit proposals on reforming the financial system and cracking down on tax havens and corporate bonuses.

But other leaders played down his threat to walk out of the summit which even the German government said was "not the best idea".

"I'm confident that President Sarkozy will be at the first course of the dinner and that he will complete the dinner," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the threat.

Sarkozy and Brown held telephone talks Wednesday ahead of the summit and agreed on the need for tougher world finance rules, the French presidency said.

But Sarkozy said before leaving Paris there had been no agreement on a summit communique.

"Neither France nor Germany are satisfied with the proposals as they currently stand," said the French leader. "I will not associate myself with a false summit, that concludes with a statement of hollow compromises, that does not address the problems that we face," he warned.

Obama and Brown, who is struggling to bridge the summit gap, played down the differences but not the scope of the crisis that the summit will have to confront.

"Make no mistake, we are facing the most severe economic crisis since World War II, and the global economy is now so fundamentally interlinked that we can only meet this challenge together," said the US president, who held his first face-to-face meetings with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and China's President Hu Jintao.

But he insisted that while the summit had a duty to produce "the most subtantive outcome possible," the "separation between the various parties has been vastly over-stated."

Obama has said stimulus and regulation are needed but looking forward to better days, he said the United States could not shoulder all the responsibility for creating new growth.

The United States will have to tackle its huge deficits so while the world has long seen the superpower as a "voracious consumer" that will have to change, Obama said.

"Everybody is going to have to pick up the pace and I think that there is a recogition based on the conversations that I've had with leaders around the world that that is important," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced her concern before leaving Berlin.

"I am going to London with a mixture of confidence and concern. Concern on one hand on whether we can really react to the serious situation... Confident, however, that ... we cannot stick our heads in the sand," she said.

Merkel has spoken out against governments like the United States and Britain spending their way out of the crisis.

But her fears were dismissed by Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan, whose country has spent massively over the past decade seeking to re-ignite the economy.

"Because of the experience of the past 15 years, we know what is necessary, while countries like the US and European countries may be facing this sort of situation for the first time," he told the Financial Times newspaper.

The G20 comprises the seven industrialized powers -- Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, and the United States -- plus Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey. The European Union counts as the 20th member.

This video is from ITN, broadcast Apr. 1, 2009.

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