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Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a closing press conference at the G8 Summit in Huntsville. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a closing press conference at the G8 Summit in Huntsville. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

G8 wavering shows difficulty of taking common action Add to ...

G8 leaders issued a stern condemnation of North Korea on Saturday over the March sinking of a South Korean ship, trying to drive a new round of pressure on the totalitarian state. But it watered down blasts at Iran's human rights record amid Russian opposition.

The G8's final communiqué includes a condemnation of the North Korean attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors, declared it outside the world's nuclear law, and called on all nations to observe sanctions already mandated by the United Nations. It provides G8 backing for South Korea's efforts to have the UN condemn North Korea again.

There was nothing new on the environment in the document the leaders produced after two days of talks in Huntsville, Ont. There was $5 billion for a new maternal-health initiative, as previously announced, but that fell short of hopes.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up the G8 summit -- before heading to the next one, the G20 in Toronto -- with an assertion that there's a common purpose among the G8 countries. But the summit's communiqué showed that common action is tough to muster.

Mr. Harper declared the G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont., a success and gave a strong defence of G8 gatherings saying they should not be overtaken by the G20.

Mr. Harper defended the role of the G8, which is made up of Canada, the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, front from left, share a word during a G8 working session with other world leaders during the G8 Summit at the Deerhurst Resort in Hunstville, Ont., Saturday.

The organization has been around in one form or another for 30 years, but it has been overtaken in many respects by the G20, which includes large economies such as China, India and Brazil.

The G8 typically defers discussions about the global economy to the G20, leaving the smaller group to discuss largely development and security issues.

Mr. Harper outlined a list of issues the G8 leaders tackled at their summit, which wrapped up earlier Saturday, including raising $7.3-billion (U.S.) for a global maternity and child health program, condemning North Korea's attack on a South Korean naval ship and pushing United Nations sanctions against Iran in light of its nuclear program.

The governments of Iran and North Korea have chosen to acquire weapons to threaten their neighbours. The world must see to it that what they spend on these weapons will not be the only cost that they incur. Prime Minister Harper

The final G8 communiqué condemns the March 26 sinking of South Korean ship Cheonan, which was determined later by an international panel to have been the result of a North Korean attack, and the G8 underlined it as a threat to the region's security.

"Such an incident is a challenge to peace and security in the region and beyond," the communiqué states. "We express our deep sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families and to the people and Government of the Republic of Korea, and call for appropriate measures to be taken against those responsible for the attack in accordance with the UN Charter and all other relevant provisions of international law."

"We condemn, in this context, the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan. We support the Republic of Korea in its efforts to seek accountability for the Cheonan incident, and we remain committed to cooperating closely with all international parties in the pursuit of regional peace and security. We demand that the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea refrain from committing any attacks or threatening hostilities against the Republic of Korea."

The communiqué urged the world to "ensure the comprehensive enforcement" of existing sanctions against North Korea to push it to abandon its nuclear-weapons program, and called the sinking of the Cheonan a danger to regional stability.

But on Iran, where Canada, the U.S., and most of the G8 wanted the leaders to issue a tough rebuke of Tehran's human-rights record, tough turned to tepid.

The G8 called on Iran to be transparent about its nuclear program. But Russia had resisted the other countries' desire for a tough statement about the regime's disrespect for human rights, so the G8 instead reiterated last year's call for Tehran to respect the rule of law.

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