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G20 to act as global economy caretakers

Russian president dishes on the sidelines of the G20 summit as leaders finalize agreements on the world economy and reforming bank regulations.

Police officers block a street during a protest prior to the start of the G20 Pittsburgh Summit in Pittsburgh, Penn., Sept. 24, 2009. Numerous protests took place in various neighborhoods around Pittsburgh on Sept. 24, most of which took place without permits and some of which involved altercations between the protesters and the police. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

PITTSBURGH — The Group of 20 will take on a more pronounced role in the global economy as leaders work together to keep the steady but slow economic recovery on track and prevent a similiar meltdown from occurring again.

The group, which accounts for 90 percent of the world's economic output, will leave emergency economic support in place until a recovery is secured and said it would establish tougher rules on bank capital by 2012, according to a draft communique obtained by Reuters.

The agreements appear to give rising powers such as China more clout in exchange for their commitment to help rebalance the world economy. Leaders will also announce that the G20, which includes China, Brazil, India and other fast-growing developing countries, will become the permanent council for international economic cooperation, eclipsing the Group of Eight.

The summit is entering its final day, following numerous protests around the city on Thursday. The final version of the communique will be issued Friday evening.

There are no official figures yet available on how many arrests were made of demonstrators trying to disrupt the G20 meeting but some preliminary media reports put the number at close to 20. Police mobilized in various Pittsburgh neighborhoods to dispel the demonstrations, most of which were taking place without permits and ranged from the anti-capitalist march to the anarchist gathering to those in favor of legalizing marijuana. Media reports and video footage documented altercations between protesters and police, some of which involved pepper gas and the firing of rubber bullets.

Usually the world leaders are protected from the protests, and that was true again this time, though one shortlived protest made its way to Oakland, a Pittsburgh neighborhood where Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had been invited Thursday afternoon to receive questions. Not far from where the Russian premier was making his appearance, he and other world leaders later gathered for dinner at the Phipps conservatory.

In Oakland, Medvedev was experiencing the other certainty, aside from protests, associated with G20 summits: fielding tough questions.

In his hour-long visit at the University of Pittsburgh, Medvedev was receiving an unexpectedly tough grilling from, not reporters, but a group fluent in his language and the politics of his country. Medvedev took questions from several dozen students who are from Russia studying at the university or are U.S. students taking part in its Russian and European Studies program.

They got right to the heart of things when the Russian president arrived an hour late amid tight security. The room was hot, the questioners restless and the Kremlin-accredited media looked on with wonder.

The students wanted to know just what the Russian president had said in New York about imposing sanctions on Iran if the country did not back down on its nuclear ambitions. The press widely interpreted his remarks at the United Nations to mean Russia agreed with the U.S. that there was the possibility that toughening sanctions might be necessary.

Not much was cleared up.

“I have this feeling as though I am still in the meeting with Barack Obama,” Medvedev joked.Then he proceeded to “clarify” that what he meant was that “when all instruments have failed, one can use international sanctions. Sometimes it’s a must.” But he also said positive incentives to encourage Iran to be open and transparent were preferable and: “I do not think sanctions are the best way to get results.”

The students pressed on. What would future relations be between Russia and Georgia in the wake of the war that erupted in 2008 between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia?