WASHINGTON, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) on Saturday voiced a growing consensus on pro-growth policies and expressed grave concern over Tehran's nuclear program at a low-key summit, which, however, produced few tangible results beyond a vague statement touching on the issue of Iran.
GROWING CONSENSUS, LIMITED MEANS
"There's now an emerging consensus that more must be done to promote growth and job creation right now," U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday wrapping up the G8 summit he just hosted at Camp David, the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland.
Leaders of the G8 major industrialized nations said in a declaration that bolstering economic growth and job creation was critical to the global economic recovery, amid a Greek political deadlock and growing banking sector stress in Spain and Italy.
"The global economic recovery shows signs of promise, but significant headwinds persist," the G8 leaders said, underlining an imperative "to promote growth and jobs," and affirming their interest in Greece remaining in the eurozone while "respecting its commitments."
Some of the leaders, including Obama and his new French counterpart Francois Holland, apparently tried to signal a pro-growth agenda and to balance the austerity approach championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, a morning discussion trying to bridge the disagreement finally produced a statement with a quite balancing tone by pledging to "maintain a firm commitment to implement fiscal consolidation."
Heather Conley, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said Obama and Hollande "clearly see things very similarly about the need for a better balance between fiscal consolidation, austerity and economic growth."
But the former deputy assistant secretary for European affairs in the U.S. State Department also noted that the challenge now is to figure out "the details of what that growth would look like"-- a question to which all the leaders failed to reach an answer at the summit.
"You will have a new European triangle, of president Hollande, chancellor Merkel and prime minister Monti and you have to see whether that growth-austerity balance can be achieved," said Conley.
Obama on Saturday stressed that the eurozone debt crisis was threatening the global economic recovery, but the region had capacity to meet its challenges.
For Obama's part, he could only play a limited role, Conley said. "This is really for Europe to sort out -- that has certainly been the administration's approach in policy to that ... We are sitting on the bleachers a bit."
But the anxiety to see Europe return to economic health is certainly real, she stressed, given that economic issues undoubtedly dominated Obama's re-election campaign trail and a rapid deterioration in the euro zone will inevitably punch U.S. fragile economic recovery and complicate Obama's presidential bid.
UNITED CONCERN, SOME SAY NO
The leaders of G8 said on Saturday that they remain united in their "grave concern" over Iran's disputed nuclear program, while urging Teheran to address such concerns without delay.
The G8 summit was held just days ahead of the next round of talks on Iran's nuclear program due on May 23 in Baghdad, Iraq, which will be attended by five G8 nations -- Germany, France, Russia, Britain and the United States -- as well as China.
The first round of talks, held in Istanbul, Turkey, in April, ended on a positive note which eased the rising tensions between Teheran and the U.S.-led West that threatened to resort to armed confrontation.
The G8 leaders welcomed the resumption of the talks, but urged Iran "to seize the opportunity" to resolve the dispute, by engaging in detailed discussions about near-term, concrete steps that can lead toward a comprehensive negotiated solution, the G8 declaration added.
Obama said that G8 leaders "are firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions."
The United States has imposed tough economic sanctions on Teheran in an attempt to persuade it from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which Washington warns could lead to military strikes by the U.S. and its allies, especially Israel.
However, given the rather vague and much watered-down statement, it is unclear what tangible or new progress has been made at the G8 summit on the Iran nuclear talks and the Syrian crisis, which were a main part of the event's agenda.
Moreover, the Kremlin had said on Thursday that Russia would work to exclude Syria and Iran from the declaration of the G8 summit. Analysts believe that such a statement, plus the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has made it hard for the summit to achieve a breakthrough on the issue.
Bruce Jones, a senior fellow with the Brookings Instituion, said: "Putin is signaling a firmer stance, a tougher stance on thorny issues" including the missile defense talks, as well as the Iran and Syria issues.
IN THE WORLD OF G20
Apparently, the Obama administration wanted to make this G8 summit a low-key one with low expectations.
Analysts believed that a potential lack of tangible results could be the reasons why the G8 summit was taking place in such a low-key.
Conley suggested that in a way G8 is seemingly getting back to its original spirit of the creation of G5 or G6 in the mid-70s amid the oil shocks and great uncertainty over the global economy.
"You have a group of like-minded, value-based leaders that are trying to have an intimate conversation to understand where this is going," she said.
The G8 summit was originally planned to be held alongside the NATO summit in Chicago. White House officials said holding the G8 summit at the exclusive presidential retreat is meant to give leaders "an intimate environment" to discuss key problems.
CSIS expert Matthew Goodman acknowledged that there was some real soul-searching about whether the G8 was really worthwhile in the world of the G20, but he insisted that G8 still played "a niche role" in the world architecture he dubbed as "G-eometry."
"This (Obama) administration has made a clear commitment to the G20 as the place to resolve international economic issues first and foremost," he said. "So I think it (G8) won't ever play the role it once played."
Another CSIS expert Stephen Flanagan noted that Putin's absence from the G8 summit also signaled that "the G20 fits Russia's vision of the future world order of a more multipolar world much better."