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A long hard week of summitry

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Robin Lustig | 09:50 UK time, Friday, 25 September 2009

So which of this week's various summits would you like me to write about? You can choose from the climate change or Middle East summits on Tuesday; the UN General Assembly summit on Wednesday; the nuclear disarmament summit yesterday; or the G20 summit today ...

You know what? I'll deal with them all, simultaneously, just as if I were a world leader.

Because the thing about summits, so we're told, is that they concentrate leaders' minds; they establish deadlines - after all, which world leader worth his or her salt wants to stand up before the world's TV cameras and say: "Er, sorry, I don't think I've got much to offer on this ..."?

No. What they do - or rather what their officials and advisers do - is spend months ahead of the summit preparing positions, discreetly sounding out friends and allies, drawing up a strategy which they hope will work as well in PR terms as it does politically.

I've written before, I think, that I tend to regard these events as worth rather less than the participants would have us believe. But even I will accept that when you get all the world's most important leaders in the same place at the same time, talking about more or less the same things, that is bound to be both interesting and important.

So what did we get? Well, on climate change, President Hu Jintao of China seemed to create the most excitement - after all, it's his country that now pumps out more carbon gas into the atmosphere than anyone else, and it's his country's economy that is growing faster than anyone else's. So when he says China will reduce its carbon emissions as a proportion of economic output "by a notable margin", that's seen as a big step forward. But how "notable" is "notable"? For now, no one knows ...

On the Middle East, President Obama insisted that Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority turned up to meet him, a bit like errant schoolboys summoned to the head teacher's office. He wagged his finger at them, told them they need to do better, and sent them home again.

At the UN General Assembly, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran both did pretty much what was expected of them, apparently revelling in their reputation as Bad Boys of the International Leaders Club. Colonel Gaddafi attacked the UN Security Council as a "terror council" and spoke for more than one and a half hours, rather than the 15 minutes each leader was allotted. (Mind you, President Obama spoke for nearly 40 minutes, so Gaddafi wasn't the only one who ignored the clock.)

President Ahmadinejad said nothing about Iran's nuclear programme, attacked Jews as "a small minority [who] dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world", and accused foreign forces in Iraq and Afghanistan of spreading "war, bloodshed, aggression, terror and intimidation".

Which brings us to Thursday and nuclear disarmament. Well, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the US which sets out a path towards what President Obama describes as "a world without nuclear weapons". Gordon Brown proposed doing without one of Britain's nuclear-armed submarines as a way of signalling his government's support, although I've seen some analysts suggest that his announcement may not contain a huge amount of substance.

And as for the G20, well, they're still at it in Pittsburgh as I write, but I somehow doubt that their final communique will have you dancing in the aisles. The consensus seems to be the worst of the economic crisis is over, we seem to have prevented a slide into the abyss, but we're going to need to remain vigilant. Oh, and we really don't think banks should be paying out million-dollar bonuses to some of their top people - but we won't say so too loudly because neither the Americans nor the Brits think it's right for governments to decide how much people should be paid.

So, all in all, a good week's work? Ask me in five years' time.


  • 1. At 6:58pm on 25 Sep 2009, asianberry wrote:

    I am tired of seeing these comic operas. In addition, it seems that the media have the pleasure of broadcasting performances of these third-rate actors. The media always have a part in this kind of hypocritical comedy.

    Why do the media regard the man as a hero of "a world without nuclear weapons"? He has been preventing such a world by granting privileges nuclear power states (permanent members of the Security Council) and ignoring the states that have refused to sign the NPT (India, Israel and Pakistan). Why are the media satisfied with not winkling any workable plans out him?

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  • 2. At 12:03pm on 28 Sep 2009, Richard_SM wrote:

    “President Ahmadinejad said nothing about Iran's nuclear programme” (from your narrative above.)

    Really? Said nothing? That’s funny because half way through Ahmedinejad’s speech he specifically mentions it. Here’s where he starts:

    “With regard to Iran's peaceful nuclear program, despite the inalienable right of all nations including the Iranian nation, in producing nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, and despite such facts as the transparency of all Iranian activities and our country's full cooperation with the inspectors of the IAEA………….” Check the transcript. It’s even covered in full on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.


    Last week, there was BBC television footage showing Ahmedinejad speaking at the UN and showing delegates walking out. The commentary inferred they were walking out because Ahmedinejad was denying the holocaust. This inference, together with the claim that Ahmedinejad avoided referring to his country’s nuclear programme in his speech is also made by the BBC’s UN reporter on the webpage report – here’s the relevant extract:

    “Mr Ahmadinejad himself didn't mention Iran's nuclear programme in front of the assembly, nor did he seem distracted by walkouts to protest his denials of the Nazi Holocaust, and what many see as his fraudulent re-election.”


    The inference is clear and when coupled with BBC’s claim that Ahmedinejad avoided the subject of Iran’s nuclear programme amounts to what I would call disinformation. Impartial reporting? I think not!

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