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The Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville Ont.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper started the G8 meetings Friday morning with a round of bilateral meetings.

His first was with Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who took over his party's leadership on June 8. Mr. Harper congratulated Mr. Kan on becoming Prime Minister and welcomed him to the G8.

Mr. Harper also plans to hold one on one meetings with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Britiah Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Cameron held their own meeting earlier today.

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The bilateral meetings between many of the leaders are expected to last most of the morning.

U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Huntsville before 11 a.m.

Earlier, cloudy drizzly weather greeted leaders of the G8 as they flew into Huntsville, Ont, Friday.

Security at the Deerhurst Resort where the meetings will be held was tight with dozens of police officers lining the roads into the resort and two sets of fences snaking along the perimeter.

A cluster of helicopters sat on a nearby golf course which was otherwise empty. Much of the grounds were also empty expect for three joggers making their way around a lake.

Leaders are expected to begin arriving around mid-morning with sessions starting this afternoon.

Their agenda will include economic development, foreign aid, maternal health and even drug trafficking.

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While the G8 meeting usually involves discussions about global economic issues, this year's gathering will include special sessions devoted to peace and security in South America and development issues in Africa.

The leaders of Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Russia, Italy and Germany have set aside about three hours today to talk to leaders from Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia and a group of African countries.

Haiti's president René Préval, whose country is struggling to emerge from January's earthquake, will be in Huntsville along with Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Colombian president Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. They will discuss drug trafficking and other security issues with G8 leaders. All three countries have long been considered major transit points for drugs moving from South America to North America and Jamaica has been the grips of a violent standoff between police and a drug gang.

"The [G8]agenda includes a serious focus on how can we as countries that are all involved, all affected by transnational criminal activities, collaborate more effectively to assist each other in addressing this problem. It is something that is urgent," Prime Minister Golding told reporters in Jamaica before leaving for Canada.

G8 leaders will also meet with heads of governments from seven African countries - South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Senegal. That meeting will focus on development issues and the G8's progress toward meeting the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, on poverty by 2015. The group will also review the $18-billion shortfall in reaching the $50-billion total pledged in 2005 at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

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"We have to say today we have not met all the commitments," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso ahead of the G8 meeting. "If we want to be successful we'll have to speed up our work," he told reporters.

The Gleneagles meeting also promised to provide an extra $25-billion a year for Africa as part of the overall $50-billion increase in financial assistance by 2010. Citing figures from the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank said the G8 had provided just $11-billion of the $25-billion for Africa.

Mr. Harper is also pushing a maternal and child health initiative that he hopes will raise billions of dollars for poor mothers and their babies.

For the first time the leaders are also publishing figures in a bid to "provide a candid assessment on what the G8 has done," they said in a report.

The so-called Muskoka Accountability Report lists country by country the pledges each nation has made since 2002 in key areas such as aid, economic development, health and food security and how far they have met them.

"In some areas, the G8 can point to considerable success; in others it has further to go to deliver fully on its promises," the report says.

On the global economic front, the U.S. is expected to be at odds with leaders from Europe over what is best for the global economy - stimulus or cut backs. The U.S. generally favors more stimulus while many European governments have launched sharp deficit reduction programs.

US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told the BBC: "Our job is to make sure we're all sitting there together to focus on this challenge of growth and confidence because growth and confidence are paramount."

He played down America's differences with Europe adding the two sides "have much more in common than we have differences."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has argued that the German model of deficit place after global financial crisis and economic downturn.

"I think that there will be very fruitful, but also very contentious, debates on this issue," Ms. Merkel acknowledged recently.

With files from AFP and AP

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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