G8 PUTS DECISIONS ON HOLD

FOR all the smiles and upbeat talk, the just-ended Group of 8 summit showed how unwieldy the forum has become, run by Cold War-vintage powers while relegating the world's fastest growing economies - China, India and Brazil - to being observers.

FOR all the smiles and upbeat talk, the just-ended Group of 8 summit showed how unwieldy the forum has become, run by Cold War-vintage powers while relegating the world's fastest growing economies - China, India and Brazil - to being observers.

It also showed just how sharp the divisions are between old-world and new-world viewpoints.

The meeting fell short of expectations on many counts, from climate control to trade. The global economic crisis weighed heavily on everyone and complicated efforts to find consensus, resulting in avoiding or putting off major decisions.

Members appeared divided on how soon to roll back stimulus packages, though they agreed now was not the time to start.

G8 leaders are quick to point out the shortcomings of a three-decade-old exclusive club in dealing with 21st century problems.

Excluding emerging world powers is "wrongheaded", US president Barack Obama said on Friday at a final news conference.

He also said the creaky system of international institutions, including the UN, needed to be overhauled to reflect geopolitical changes.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called G8 expansion all but a done deal. Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, this year's host, said limiting the club to rich, industrialised nations is "no longer adequate". But finding the right formula for an overhaul will prove tricky.

"Everybody wants the smallest possible group ... that includes themselves," Obama said. Nations not included "think it's highly unfair if they've been cut out".

Sarkozy said he expected the G8 to expand to 14 nations - adding Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and an Arab country - when France holds the rotating presidency in 2011.

But no clear path was laid last week as existing members clung to their elite status.

"They will not give up their power," said Milena Elsinger of the DGAP foreign policy think tank in Berlin. "They will still meet and pretend to be leaders of the world."

The Group of Eight grew out of an economic forum in France in 1975 of the then-six wealthiest industrial nations: France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US.

Canada joined the following year, and the group grew to eight in 1997 with the addition of Russia. - Sapa-AP

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