Syria, emerging market turmoil put U.S. in G20 hot seat

Tue Sep 3, 2013 10:34am EDT
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By Douglas Busvine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Group of 20 cut its teeth in the global financial crisis of 2009, achieving unprecedented cooperation between developed and emerging nations to stave off economic collapse which has not been matched since.

Four years on, shifts of power and money - led by capital flight from emerging markets - and gaping divisions over Syria will test the resolve of the G20 leaders when they meet in Russia's second city of St Petersburg this week.

It is the very breadth of the forum, which groups developing and developed economies accounting for two-thirds of the world population and 90 percent of its output, that makes it hard to forge a united front.

"There is a tremendous vacuum of policy coordination, I don't think I've ever seen it this bad," one global economist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said as he looked ahead to the two-day talks starting on Thursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who has already pulled out of a meeting with host President Vladimir Putin after a falling out between Washington and Moscow, might be forgiven for wanting to skip the gathering altogether.

Obama has struggled to rally Western support for military action against Syria over what Washington believes is the killing of 1,400 people in a chemical weapons attack.

Britain, a generally reliable ally, pulled back after a parliamentary revolt last week.

Obama's request for Congressional approval for the use of force has, meanwhile, raised eyebrows in the Kremlin for appearing to show weakness after the forceful U.S.-led action in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.   Continued...

Banners of the G20 Summit hang on an embankment near the Neva river in St. Petersburg, September 1, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk