G-8 leaders condemn any use of chemical weapons in Syria

Leaders of the Group of Eight nations on Tuesday condemned "in the strongest terms" any use of chemical weapons in Syria and called on all sides to allow U.N. investigators to look into their alleged use, as they wrapped up their two-day summit in Northern Ireland.

In a communique released after the summit, the leaders also vowed to cooperate in reducing terrorism risks, while calling on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, which Pyongyang has pursued despite international sanctions against it.

The leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States addressed a wide range of issues during the summit at the Lough Erne golf resort, but it was Syria that dominated their discussions.

The G-8 leaders agreed to "condemn the use of chemical weapons by anyone and crucially to enable an unhindered U.N. investigation to establish the facts," British Prime Minister David Cameron told a news conference after the summit.

"This pledge was not expected here at the G-8. We discussed it last night, we agreed it last night and have written it down and agreed it today," he added, suggesting that substantial discussions took place among participants, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Cameron, who holds the G-8 presidency this year, also said his fellow leaders have agreed to support a future Syrian government that has the "consent of all Syrians," noting that the agreement was reached only by what he described as a "frank, open, leader-to-leader discussion that was a key feature of this G-8."

With more than 90,000 people having died in the civil war in Syria and nearly six million Syrians either becoming refugees or displaced internally, Cameron called for action from G-8 nations to stem one of the largest humanitarian crises in recent history.

"Every leader around that table knows that words alone won't stop the suffering. The task now is to turn that into real action," he said.

In the communique, the leaders also addressed the need for international rules designed to prevent multinational corporations from avoiding taxes.

They also signaled the need to counter armed militants in western Africa, particularly in areas south of the Sahara Desert, and check the flow of weapons across porous borders there.

They shared the view that it is important to improve border control in the areas and attack poverty, as it is considered an underlying cause of instability in the region.

On ways to address tax avoidance by multinational corporations and make them pay taxes in the countries in which they do business, the leaders called for a system under which information on such companies is shared automatically.

The leaders welcomed the latest developments toward greater trade liberalization, such as the ongoing trans-Pacific free trade talks which Japan is set to join next month, and the recently launched negotiations for a Japan-EU free trade pact.

"We aim to finalize all these deals as soon as possible," the G-8 leaders said in the statement.

On Iran, which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons capability, they called for international coordination in taking advantage of the recent election of Hasan Rowhani, who is viewed as a moderate, as Iran's new president.

On kidnapping by terrorists, the leaders said in the communique their countries unequivocally refuse to pay any ransom to resolve such cases.

Regarding Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic policies, which are aimed at ending decades of deflation and reviving the Japanese economy, the leaders called on Japan to define a "credible medium-term fiscal plan" that would lay out a path toward fiscal rehabilitation.

They also gave measured approval to Abe's economic policies, dubbed "Abenomics," which consist of aggressive monetary easing, large fiscal spending and a growth strategy centered on deregulation and tax breaks to spur business investment.

For his part, Abe expressed confidence on Tuesday that his fellow G-8 leaders had endorsed his policies at the summit, saying none of his counterparts voiced concern about them.

"For the record, I heard no concern about the measures I have been pushing during the G-8 summit," Abe told a news conference in Belfast after returning from Lough Erne.

In another development, when some leaders noted during Tuesday's summit meeting the importance of intelligence in combating terrorism, Obama told other leaders that the United States has acted lawfully in connection with its recently exposed surveillance program known as "Prism," according to a Japanese official.

But apparently no further discussion ensued on the topic in the meeting.

This year's summit is the second G-8 leaders' meeting for Abe, who became prime minister last December for the second time. He attended the 2007 summit in Heiligendamm in Germany when he served as prime minister for a year until September 2007.

Next year's summit will be held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, the venue of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, on June 4-5.