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G7 Leaders Gather In France To Discuss Iran, Russia, Amazon Rainforest


French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to business leaders on the eve of the G7 summit.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) top industrialized nations are gathering in southwest France for a potentially contentious summit, with Iran’s nuclear program and the possibility of Russia's reentry into the group on the agenda.

U.S. President Donald Trump and new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are among the leaders scheduled for the two-day summit beginning on August 24 in the resort area of Biarritz, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Upon his departure from Washington, Trump told reporters that he expected "very productive" talks with his fellow G7 members. He also called on France to drop plans to impose sales taxes on U.S. tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

Along with the other leaders from the G7 nations -- Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend as a guest and will meet individually with many other participants, most likely to discuss the Kashmir crisis.

Macron said he will also look to press Trump to sign a charter protecting biodiversity amid the continuing fires that are devastating the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

All eyes will be on Trump and his relations with the rest of the grouping. The G7 meeting last year in Quebec, Canada, ended in disarray with the U.S. president accusing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making "false statements" regarding a final communique, which the United States did not endorse.

This year, Washington has been pushing European allies to help put “maximum pressure" on Iran -- through sanctions and other means – to force Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program.

A British diplomatic source in Biarritz told Reuters that "we are strong supporters" of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of in May 2018, when he claimed the terms were not strict enough.

"We think that it is very important that Iran doesn't get the nuclear weapons...It is important that it continues and I don't think you will find any change in the British government position," the source said.

The source added, though, that it was crucial for Iran to comply fully with the 2015 accord, sayng that, while Johnson would listen to the U.S. position, the British government was not planning to make any radical changes to its approach.

Trump is likely to face strong pushback if he continues to press his view that Russia should be readmitted to the grouping, which was called the G8 before Moscow was thrown out.

Russia was expelled from the G8 format after invading and annexing Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014. Moscow is also backing separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.

The G7 member states have imposed sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.

Macron said on August 23 that he wanted the leading industrialized nations to also address the "ecocide" that is going on in the Amazon rainforest, which has been struck by a massive number of fires. Experts say many of the fires have been caused by farmers setting the forest ablaze to clear more land for pasture.

His comments have angered Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who blasted what he called Macron’s "colonialist mentality."

Many of the leaders are also expected to discuss the crisis in Kashmir with India’s Modi.

Tensions have risen since Hindu-led India said on August 5 that it would strip the majority-Muslim region of its special status, which sparked resentment in Indian-administered Kashmir and across the border in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, as well as in Islamabad.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from Britain in 1947, but both sides claim the territory in its entirety.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP

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