L’AQUILA, Italy – Leaders of the world’s major economies on Friday pledged $20 billion for food and agricultural aid to the world’s most impoverished countries, and President Barack Obama ended a global summit by saying that despite steps forward on economic, environmental and security issues, much work remains to be done.
“While our markets are improving and we appear to have averted global collapse, we know that too many people are still struggling,” Obama said, speaking at a news conference after a three-day meeting of the Group of Eight highly industrialized nations. “Right now, at this defining moment, we face a choice. We can either shape our future or let events shape it for us.”
Obama called the agreement on food aid among the most significant achievements at the summit. He also singled out actions to combat nuclear proliferation and global warming, efforts to stabilize the global economy, and a joint statement condemning Iran’s crackdown on protests after its disputed presidential election last month.
“We remain seriously concerned about the appalling events surrounding the presidential election,” Obama said. “And we’re deeply troubled by the proliferation risks Iran’s nuclear program poses to the world.”
He said the leaders will “take stock of Iran’s progress” this September at the Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh, another global summit that will follow a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
At the conclusion of the summit, Obama traveled with his family from this earthquake-ravaged mountain town to Vatican City, where he, first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
The 30-minute meeting was described by both sides as positive.
The Vatican said the leaders discussed immigration, the Middle East peace process and aid to developing nations. But the Vatican also underscored the pair’s deep disagreement on abortion and stem cell research.
The Obama family then traveled to the African nation of Ghana, arriving just after 9 p.m. local time Friday in Accra, the capital, where they were greeted by dignitaries including Ghanaian President John Atta Mills.
Accra, a rain-soaked city brimming with pride over being Obama’s first sub-Saharan stop as president, has been in an Obama frenzy all week. Billboards splashed with images of the American president and first lady line its traffic-choked avenues, and hawkers are touting U.S. flags and Obama soccer jerseys.