By Scott Stearns, VOA, State Department
Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations are meeting in Washington for discussions that include the continuing violence in Syria, nuclear talks with Iran, and North Korea's missile launch plans.
Group of Eight (G8) is a forum for the governments of eight of the world's largest economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, United States
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the meeting is an opportunity to discuss the many global issues that require joint leadership from G8 nations. Topping the agenda: Syria.
"We are alarmed for the ongoing violence in Syria, and we are concerned about the problems facing special envoy Kofi Annan as he attempts to bring about a cease-fire and the end to violence," said Secretary Clinton.
Within the G8, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom have called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down as part of a democratic transition to end the political violence, which has raged for 13 months. Russia has backed President Assad as he battles the opposition and continues to sell arms to Syria.
Secretary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet separately to discuss Syria after a video conference briefing by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Syrian troops shooting at Syrian refugees inside Turkey.
With Turkey set to host another round of talks on Iran's nuclear program Saturday, Secretary Clinton says G8 foreign ministers believe it is an opportunity for Tehran to address seriously the international community's concerns about its nuclear ambitions.
"We believe there is still time for diplomacy, but it is urgent that the Iranians come to the table to establish an environment conducive to achieving concrete results through a sustained process," said Clinton.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes and is not designed to develop nuclear weapons.
It is a standoff similar to North Korea, where officials are readying the launch of a rocket which Pyongyang says will put a satellite in orbit.
"It violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions," she said. "I think we all share a strong interest in stability on the Korean peninsula, and we will be discussing how best to achieve that."
Secretary Clinton says G8 foreign ministers will also discuss transnational issues including terrorism, piracy, food security, and support for democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa.
Those talks continue Thursday in preparation for next month's G8 heads of state summit at Camp David.
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