AUCHTERARDER, Scotland—It wasn't supposed to be about terrorism, this year's meeting of leaders from the world's eight leading industrial democracies. It was supposed to be a high-minded summit devoted to helping Africa and tackling global warming.
But in the flash of a series of explosions in London, terrorism dominated the first full day of the annual Group of Eight summit, this one held in the rolling rural hills of Scotland.
The bombings didn't halt the summit, but they did slow it down a bit. The leaders from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia delayed their morning discussions and postponed issuing a communique on global warming until Friday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair broke the news about the bombings to each G-8 leader individually as they gathered for their first working session Thursday morning.
"Then Mr. Blair came in, sat down, and he gave us the information he had at that time, and then we proceeded with the agenda," Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said. "But the agenda was interrupted periodically, in fact quite a number of times, as further information came in."
The G-8 leaders—along with the presidents of China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico and the prime minister of India, all invited in recognition of their countries' rising economic influence—set aside the agenda to join Blair in denouncing the bombings as cowardly acts against innocent people.
"Those responsible have no respect for human life," they said in a joint written statement that Blair read aloud. "We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation, but on all nations and on civilized people everywhere."
With that, a stoic-looking Blair abruptly left the Gleneagles resort hotel, where the summit is being held, to go to London to comfort his shaken nation, leaving the other G-8 leaders to proceed in his absence.
"We all decided we could carry on with the agenda because we were simply not going to show that the terrorists could win in any way, shape or form," Martin said.
As Blair's helicopter lifted off, a solemn President Bush strode purposefully from a side door of the hotel to speak before a group of reporters. He expressed condolences and disgust at the bombings.
"The war on terror goes on," Bush said.
He contrasted the devastation in London against the G-8 leaders' ideals.
"On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment," Bush said. "And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people.
"And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who deeply care about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill."
After Bush and his top aides conferred with senior officials in the United States, the leaders returned to the summit's business—climate change and the global economy. Bush is pressing his colleagues to approach global warming as one among a set of interrelated issues involving economic development, energy security and environmental concerns.
"I think what you'll see is the group coming to consensus," said Faryar Shirzad, U.S. deputy national security adviser, who led the administration's preparations for the summit. "I think what I saw was a group of leaders who had a renewed sense of purpose in terms of advancing the common good, in the light of what happened."
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): ATTACKS-LONDON, G8
GRAPHICS (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20050630 Gleneagles G8 and 20050628 G8 logo
Need to map