The hunt for a common viewpoint in seeking Middle East peace surfaced as the most troublesome issue for foreign ministers from the eight leading industrialized countries as they met Wednesday.
"There certainly are, as in any policy matter, a variety of views as to what should be done," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said at the start of the two-day discussion.
The variety of views pits the United States against other members of the G-8 -- Canada, Russia, France, Italy, Japan, Germany and Britain -- on pushing Israel, the Palestinians and regional Arab countries into a negotiating process.
The administration of President George W. Bush has yet to sign off on a policy amid persistent reports of internal dissent on how to address months of suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorists and Israeli military counter-attacks.
"I hope we will come down with an agreement on the need for an international conference to move forward," Graham told reporters.
"We should at least be supporting each other."
The Whistler meeting is in preparation for the G-8 leaders' summit to be held in Kananaskis later this month.
Foreign ministers also assessed how effectively they have co-ordinated their response to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and how they can deepen and broaden the continuing campaign to root out terrorist cells linked to the al-Qaeda network.
Graham said the ministers are paying special attention to what aid they may be able to offer countries less able to mount effective countermeasures to terrorists in such areas as airport security and money laundering.
The confrontation between India and Pakistan, with its threat of a regional nuclear war, has dropped down the ministers' agenda in the last few days.
Graham said they still regard the armed standoff over terrorist attacks on India by guerrillas India claims are aided and harboured by Pakistan as an extremely dangerous situation.
The ministers will continue to pressure both sides to withdraw from the brink of war.
But Graham said the ministers are "very encouraged" by signs in the last few days that tensions are easing.
India on the weekend withdrew a large flotilla of warships from close to the Pakistani coast and eased restrictions on civilian aircraft flights after Pakistan made moves to curb the infiltration of terrorists.
Graham said that with the grand council of elders, known as the loya jirga, meeting in the Afghan capital of Kabul to establish an interim government, it is essential the country not be allowed to again become a terrorist haven or major source of drug trafficking.
Among the G-8 ministers there is a conviction the creation of a national Afghan army and police force is essential to overcoming regional warlords and to allowing reconstruction and development plans to proceed effectively.
On the Middle East, the international community is awaiting word from Washington as Bush works through meetings with regional leaders aimed at fine-tuning his policy.
"In the very near future he will make clear his views on how to move forward," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Powell reaffirmed the U.S. wants a regional peace conference to start before the end of the summer, a position supported by G-8 partners.
The meeting of foreign ministers is being held under tight security. But only about 75 people showed up to protest peacefully outside the black metal temporary fencing.
BUSH BACKS PALESTINIAN STATE
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that the Bush administration was considering backing the creation of a Palestinian state even before its borders and other details are agreed on, but he emphasized that the idea was only one of several still under review.
No final decision had been made, Powell said in an interview published Wednesday in the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Hayat, and later to reporters. But he said that President Bush had not backed away from his goal of establishing a Palestinian state, and that the question was how best to do so.
"He knows that to get to that vision, it may be necessary to have a provisional state, an interim step; it may take several steps to get there," Powell said in the Al Hayat interview, conducted on Monday.
He added: "I think almost everybody has come to the agreement that there is a need for provisional or interim steps; the question is for how long should that be the case, and how does one get to the comprehensive solution at the end."
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. NoNonsense English offers this material non-commercially for research and educational purposes. I believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner, i.e. the media service or newspaper which first published the article online and which is indicated at the top of the article unless otherwise specified.