ROME (AP) - Debt, disease, poverty and war. Foreign ministers from the world's big industrial powers have a full agenda for their two-day meeting in Rome.
The conference, which starts Wednesday, is a prelude to the Group of Eight summit later this week in the northern port city of Genoa, an event that is drawing tens of thousands of demonstrators.
At Italy's urging, the foreign ministers will open their talks with a nod to the concerns of the street crusaders who've become a fixture at international summits over the past two years.
The idea, Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero said, is to demonstrate "a common concern for the destiny of the world and the future of the less favored, to ensure they are not sidelined by the present globalization process."
The conference gathers the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Canada, Japan, Italy and Russia. Several ministers planned one-on-one meetings on the sidelines, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
He was scheduled to meet privately with Russian Foreign Secretary Igor Ivanov before the conference began, and then with Ruggiero.
There is a growing gulf between the United States and Russia over America's plans for a missile defense shield. Russia says it violates existing arms control accords and has warned it could lead to a new arms race.
Another gulf that will undoubtedly feature in the ministers' talks is the Kyoto agreement on global warming, which President George W. Bush opposes. The Europeans are likely to press the United States to soften its opposition.
At a climate conference in Bonn this week, the leaders of the 15 European Union countries promised to do their part to reduce so-called "greenhouse" gas emissions and urged the United States and Japan to do theirs, too.
Other issues on the table at the Rome meeting will include how rich countries can do more to help the poor, regional crises such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the devastating toll AIDS is taking on poor countries, especially in Africa.
The G-8 summit in Genoa begins Friday and ends Sunday.