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Whistler to host G8 foreign ministers in June

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It won’t be as big a conference as the World Economic Forum, but when the foreign ministers of the eight most powerful nations in the world meet in Whistler in June security may be just as tight.

Bill Graham, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, announced last week that the G8 foreign ministers will meet in Whistler June 12-13, two weeks prior to the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta.

The G8 countries include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. As well, the European Union participates as a non-hosting member.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will be one of the most recognizable and most heavily protected foreign ministers.

In addition to Foreign Affairs Minister Graham, the Canadian delegation will likely include Minister for International Trade Pierre Pettigrew, Minister for International Co-operation Susan Whelan, and three Secretaries of State: David Kilgour (Asia-Pacific), Gar Knutson (Central and Eastern Europe), and Denis Paradis (Latin America and Africa).

The foreign ministers meeting is one of a number of meetings that take place at ministerial levels leading up to the Kananaskis G8 summit June 26-27. Finance ministers and central bank governors met in Ottawa early in February. The G8 environment ministers will meet in Banff April 12-14. Labour and employment ministers will meet in Montreal April 25-27. Energy ministers will get together in Detroit in early May, and justice and interior ministers will be meeting at Mont Tremblant May 13-14,

While discussion topics for the foreign ministers meeting in Whistler have not been made public, Prime Minister Jean Chretien has said repeatedly that African development will be a major theme of the G8 summit in Kananaskis. Chretien talked about NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development that was initiated by African leaders, at the World Economic Forum in New York earlier this year. The Chretien government established a $500 million Africa Fund in its Dec. 10 budget.

The two other major themes for the Kananaskis summit are strengthening global economic growth and fighting terrorism.

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