VANCOUVER (CP) -- Terror runs like a black thread through almost everything the G-8 foreign ministers will talk about when they meet at Whistler, B.C., this week.
Whether it's nuclear proliferation, rebuilding Afghanistan, the crawl toward Mideast peace or the U.S.-led war on terrorism itself, the issue will never be far from the minds of the eight men and women when they sit down Wednesday for two days of talks.
Whistler itself, a posh mountain resort village north of Vancouver, will be under an RCMP security blanket to protect the ministers from potential attack, as well as insulate them from the more militant protesters.
"These aren't the same high-status targets as the national leaders but there'll be a lot of overt security," says John Thompson, director of the Mackenzie Institute, an Ottawa-based defence research group.
The leaders themselves will gather later this month in Kananaskis, Alta., another remote outdoor playground.
The foreign ministers' work, along with that of other key ministerial meetings, will feed into the leaders' summit.
But while rescuing Africa is supposed to be the centrepiece at Kananaskis, the main preoccupation at Whistler will be terrorism and its impact on other world problems.
The United States wants to ensure the anti-terror coalition formed after Sept. 11 is still solid.
"I think the United States is going to want to gain support on the terrorism thing on a broad basis, so there's no leakage among any of the governments represented in terms of concentrating very much on this," says John Hunter, a senior adviser at Rand Corp., a non-partisan U.S. think tank.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, hosting his first major conference since being shuffled into the job in January, says there's no evidence the alliance is fraying. But he concedes the Americans and Europeans look at terrorism from different historical perspectives.
"I don't think they're less serious about it but they may tend to approach it culturally differently," says Graham. "I think that's where we want to try and understand how we can approach it best together."
The G-8 will also talk about how countries can increase co-operation on such things as intelligence sharing, harmonizing extradition for terrorist suspects and securing borders without unduly impairing trade and travel, says Thompson.
"Already there are a lot of informal agreements between most of the major nations involved in the conflict," he says. "The problem is informal arrangements don't always work as well as formal treaties and agreements."
The United States is usually the centre of gravity at these meetings. But Secretary of State Colin Powell will be keenly interested in what his counterparts may say about possible American plans to deal with Iraq.
"The United States will be taking the temperature, I think, in terms of weapons of mass destruction," says Hunter, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO.
U.S. allies, and Americans themselves, have little stomach for a military campaign against Iraq without hard evidence it had a role in the Sept. 11 attack, says Hunter. Powell will be listening hard for alternatives or outright concern about the U.S. direction.
Other G-8 powers draw a close connection between the war on terror and the Mideast conflict, which they see as a recruiting tool for terrorists.
They will likely use the link to push for greater U.S. engagement, says Hunter. It's seen as the only power with real leverage on Israel and the only one strong enough to ensure any peace deal is maintained.
Graham sees Canada's role as a bridge.
"Your minister can be useful by getting in between the Americans and the Europeans on that by getting the Americans to understand the European viewpoint," Hunter agrees.
For Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, the meeting is a chance to entrench the country's closer ties with its new Western friends.
Russia joined the then-G-7 club in 1998 but its support of the war on terror has accelerated its integration in an alliance it once opposed.
"It's clear that Russia's now not only willing but anxious to co-operate with us in dealing with what they see as common security threats," says Graham.
The meeting will discuss ways of safeguarding Russia's remaining stockpiles of nuclear and chemical and biological weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Russia says it needs financial help to upgrade security.
The Russians also hope their new allies won't raise too much fuss over their own battles with Islamic minorities, now fought under the anti-terror banner.
"I think the United States had indicated that it's prepared to let the Russians, within reason, do more or less what it wants," says Hunter. "There's still some rhetoric in regard to Chechnya but there's not a lot of stuff behind it in terms of actual pressing."
But Graham says Ivanov will hear the best way to curb terrorism is to respect human rights.
"States that persecute their citizens are breeding grounds for terrorism," he says.
The Russians, he says, must deal with their security problem "within a framework which allows the Chechen people an opportunity to have expression of themselves as people."
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