KANANASKIS - U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged a united front against terrorism Thursday as world leaders wrapped up a two-day summit in western Canada.
Bush and Putin, sitting down to one-on-one talks at the Group of Eight summit of the world's industrial powers, swapped praise and commitments to combat terror.
"Unfortunately, terrorism is of a global nature," said Putin. "... Joint efforts are essential if we want to be successful in this fight."
Bush called Putin a "stalwart in this fight against terrorism."
As heads of state from the world's industrial powers closed two days of meetings, Putin was emerging as one of the annual summit's big winners. The United States and the other rich countries were close to a deal to provide dlrs 20 billion in support over the next decade to help Russia dispose of its aging nuclear stockpile - and keep it out of the hands of terrorists.
The eight heads of state deliberating at this remote Canadian Rocky Mountain resort also turned their attention Thursday to Africa and a far-reaching program to provide billions of dollars of assistance to the world's poorest continent.
But talk here was preoccupied with Bush's three-day-old Middle East peace plan and his allies' hesitance to embrace the U.S. position that an independent Palestine is only possible if Palestinians replace Yasser Arafat as their leader.
Bush, as he opened meetings with Putin in a small windowless room, said: "I'm very pleased with the response to my proposal on the Middle East. The response has been very positive."
Earlier this week, Putin said bluntly that it would be "dangerous and mistaken" to remove Arafat, saying such an action risked a "radicalization of the Palestinian people." On Thursday, Putin's foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, reiterated the Russian view: "We must work with the leadership in place, including Arafat."
On help for Russia in dismantling its nuclear stockpile, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States would put up dlrs 10 billion, with the remaining summit countries agreeing to a U.S. request that they put up the other half. The official said the only stumbling block was Russia's acceptance of conditions on how the program will be run.
Putin heads home to Moscow having won Russia full-fledged membership in the elite G-8, made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and now Russia.
Russia was placed in the rotation to serve as host for a summit for the first time, in 2006.
Bush had far less success winning support for the new Middle East peace plan he announced on Monday, which demanded the removal of Arafat.
Bush said he "won't be putting money into a society" dominated by corrupt leaders and he said "I suspect other countries won't either." Two senior officials said Bush was referring to the promise of a robust international aid package if democratic reforms are enacted, not the dlrs 100 million in humanitarian aid currently going to Palestinians, which they said is not in jeopardy.
Other countries did not endorse Bush's call for the ouster of Arafat, though British Prime Minister Tony Blair came closest to the U.S. position. French President Jacques Chirac, echoing comments of other European leaders, said, "It is for the Palestinian people, and them alone, to choose their representatives."
The G-8 leaders also pondered how to offer assurances to global financial markets, which were sent tumbling Wednesday with WorldCom Inc.'s announcement that it had disguised dlrs 3.8 billion of expenses.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, this year's summit host, said the WorldCom situation had been a "preoccupation of all leaders" because of concerns that questionable corporate accounting was shaking investor confidence and raising doubts about the sustainability of the U.S. recovery from last year's recession.
The remote location in the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary sharply reduced the number of anti-globalization protesters, a marked contrast from last year when thousands of demonstrators clashed with police in Genoa, Italy, resulting in one death.
The demonstrations Wednesday in Calgary, about 85 miles (135 kilometers) east of the meeting venue were mostly peaceful.
On terrorism, the G-8 produced a new action plan to make airline travel safer and to close what is seen as a major opening for terrorists - inadequate surveillance of the thousands of cargo containers that enter ports around the world every day.
The agenda for the final day was discussion of a new aid compact with impoverished African countries. The world's wealthy nations would provide billions of dollars in new aid and corporate investment to African nations that promise to root out government corruption and pursue free-market reforms.
The leaders were being joined for the discussions by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the presidents of four African countries - South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria and Senegal.
The nations scored an initial victory on Wednesday when the G-8 agreed to increase support by dlrs 1 billion for an initiative launched at the Cologne summit in 1999 to provide debt relief for the world's poorest nations.
The African countries were hoping for a commitment that 50 percent of future aid increases would be devoted to their region, but the United States and Japan were raising objections to setting such a specific target.