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G7 wrestles with Iran, Amazon fires & trade

G7 countries to finance fire-fighting aircraft for Amazon: French presidency

G7 wrestles with Iran, Amazon fires & trade
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Biarritz (France): G7 leaders close their summit Monday with discussion of world problems including the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest, but overshadowed by President Donald Trump's trade wars and questions over the group's unity.

The summit in Biarritz, a high-end surfers' paradise in southwestern France, saw a dramatic shift of focus Saturday when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif flew in to discuss the diplomatic deadlock on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.

Zarif's presence had not been expected and it represented a gamble by French host Emmanuel Macron who is seeking to soothe spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States.

The Iranian top diplomat didn't meet Trump, French diplomats said, but the presence of the two men in the same place at least sparked hopes of a detente. Just this July, the US government imposed heavy sanctions seeking to hamper Zarif's travel, and effectively banning him from the United States.

"Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying," the US-educated Zarif tweeted after meeting Macron and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, as well as British and German representatives.

French officials said Trump, who has imposed crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy over its nuclear programme, had been aware of the arrival.

The sources suggested that the secretive visit had also been discussed during an impromptu two-hour lunch between the US president and Macron on Saturday.

"We work with full transparency with the Americans," one diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity, despite US media reports that the White House had been taken by surprise.

Trump, who will give a press conference before returning to Washington on Monday, proclaimed that the G7 summit was going "beautifully" on Sunday.

Leaders of the G7 countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — ended their second day with another sumptuous dinner of the finest French cuisine. They also posed for a group photo with the ocean and Biarritz's tall lighthouse as a backdrop.

On the final day, the agenda included discussions of the fires destroying chunks of the Amazon, a scenario that European leaders have described as an assault on the so-called green lungs of the world.

Trump has been less vocal on the issue. He also stands out from the rest of the G7 in his budding friendship with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army officer who has given freer rein to industrial farmers and loggers who have made the country an agribusiness power — at huge cost to the environment.

An even bigger issue dividing Trump from the rest of the G7 throughout the summit was trade and the US president's effort to force even close allies into hard negotiations on market access and tariffs

Meanwhile, the G7 countries have agreed to release 20 million euros (USD 22 million) for the Amazon, most of which will be used to send fire-fighting aircraft, a source in the French presidency said.

The club — comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — has also agreed to support a medium-term reforestation plan which will be unveiled at the United Nations in September, a presidential aide said.

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