Police lob teargas at hundreds of NATO protesters
Update at bottom: Police, protesters clash before summit
LONDON (AFP) – World leaders battled Wednesday to hammer out their differences over how to fix the global economy, against a backdrop of violent demonstrations in which one man collapsed and died.
Protesters laid siege to the Bank of England and smashed the windows of a nearby bank that has become a symbol of the financial crisis in Britain, which has been hit hard by the credit crunch and its economic fallout.
Security is tight ahead of Thursday's Group of 20 summit, where leaders including US President Barack Obama are struggling to overcome US-Europe tensions over how to ease the global slowdown.
Several thousand demonstrators invaded London's main financial district and tensions spilled over when protesters smashed their way into an office of Royal Bank of Scotland, which was taken into state ownership last year.
Police said they made 63 arrests in the clashes, and later announced a man had collapsed and died while being held inside a police cordon near the Bank of England, despite attempts by emergency services to revive him.
The protests were carried out as world leaders held pre-summit talks trying to iron out differences over whether tighter regulation or further fiscal stimulus would do more to ease the crisis.
Late Wednesday, they all gathered at Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, before a dinner at British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street residence.
Earlier, France and Germany demanded tough action by the G20 leaders and 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 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they were not happy with the draft proposals for the summit, and vowed to stand together to press for "non-negotiable" new global finance rules.
"Without new regulations there will be no confidence. And without confidence there will be no recovery. It's a major aim, non-negotiable," Sarkozy told reporters here, although he did not repeat a threat to walk out of the summit.
Merkel said world powers could not wait until a subsequent meeting to take action, and insisted "we must not be content with generalisations" in the final communique the G20 leaders are to draw up.
Summit host Brown held telephone talks with Sarkozy Wednesday ahead of Thursday's meeting and agreed on the need for tougher world finance rules, but not on the final communique, the French presidency said.
Obama and Brown, who is struggling to bridge the summit gap between the US and Europe, 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 Obama, who has also held his first face-to-face meetings with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and China's President Hu Jintao.
After Obama's talks with his Chinese counterpart, the pair pledged to support global trade and investment flows and work to resist protectionism, the White House said.
"China and the United States are committed to resist protectionism and ensure sound and stable US-China trade relations," said a statement issued after Obama met Hu at the US ambassador's residence in London.
China has previously singled out the United States for criticism over protectionist measures.
Obama insisted that while the summit had a duty to produce "the most substantive outcome possible," the "separation between the various parties has been vastly overstated."
The US leader has said stimulus and regulation are needed. He added that the United States could not shoulder all responsibility for generating new growth.
"Everybody is going to have to pick up the pace and I think that there is a recognition based on the conversations that I've had with leaders around the world that that is important," he said.
Germany's 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 US and Britain spending their way out of the crisis.
But her fears were dismissed by Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan, whose country spent massively to re-ignite the economy following the Asian financial crisis.
Police, protesters clash before summit
"Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to beat back a crowd of several hundred anti-NATO protesters in Strasbourg on Thursday as the city in eastern France, host of the alliance's 60th anniversary summit, readied for the arrival of world leaders," the Associated Press reports.
The AP article adds, "Police lobbed hundreds of tear gas canisters during clashes between about 40 riot police and some 200 masked protesters in the neighborhood of Neuhoff, in the southern part of the city near the German border."
"The masked protesters had been among a crowd of about 800 demonstrators when they broke away and repeatedly pelted officers with rocks and bottles," the AP story continues. "There were no immediate reports of injuries. Police said a dozen protesters were arrested. At one point, protesters set fire in the middle of a street to building materials they had scooped up from a nearby construction site."
This video is from Sky News, broadcast Apr. 2, 2009.
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