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Vatican calls G8 a contradiction

A Vatican official on Wednesday warned a forthcoming Group of Eight (G8) meeting against dictating other countries what to do rather than give poor countries the chance to decide their own fate.

"The summit of the world's most powerful countries which meet from time to time to make decisions (is) a self-styled body that has never been given a mandate," said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva, in an interview with Radio Vatican.

Italy will host the G8, which groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, in Genoa next month.

The grouping is "a contradiction within the international community," said Martin. The world's most powerful nations should therefore "not try to dictate what other countries should do but leave it to the poorest countries to decide their fate."

Martin argued that Seattle-style anti-globalisation protests show that it is "absolutely necessary to encourage people to take part in initiatives that concern their life and their future."

Sometimes violent street protests by grassroots activists accompanied the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in late 1999. Former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato, who prepared the conference, has said that the Genoa summit will focus "on the increasing inequality between rich and poor countries (...) and the state of abandonment in which the latter have been left in terms of health, education, technology and life expectancy."

The official summit agenda will be established by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, which was sworn in last Monday.