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G8 'family photo' abandoned amid security fears

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other world leaders have been forced to abandon a traditional "family" photo at the G8 summit in Italy amid fears a protester had infiltrated their gathering.

The 39 leaders, including the US President Barack Obama, were lined up in front of the military barracks in the Abruzzo town of L'Aquila when the informal photo call with the world's media was hastily called to a halt.

No explanation was provided but security men huddled around Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was also standing nearby, was also whisked away.

Not long after, official visits to the earthquake-devastated town piazza were cancelled by the Italians and reports began to emerge of a vocal anti-globalisation protest in the town centre.

Bild: Daniel Rosenthal

Media covering the G8 Summit were not allowed to leave or enter the village for several hours and shuttle buses in were delayed.

Agence France Presse and Italian papers reported that a long cortege of anti-globalisation protesters - estimates ranged between several hundred and 5000 people - had held a demonstration in the town centre.

According to Corriere Della Sera newspaper, there were 5000 protesters and between 3000 and 4000 security officials but the `no global' protest ended peaceably with just a couple of scuffles when water bottles were thrown at police.

The protests were originally due to be led by local people angry that millions of Euro were poured into the G8 Summit talkfest while more than 20,000 remain housed in tent cities around the town.

The protesters were reported to have converged in the piazza and wild cheering erupted in support of construction workers and firemen who are working around the clock in the rubble.

Photographs taken by Italian papers show banners, including one that stated `You G8 are the quake, all of us are Aquilani'.

Others wore the hard hats issued to rescue workers with placards saying `the only way to get back into our homes'.

Mr Rudd said later that he had not been aware of any disruption to the photo call but that he had heeded security advice to cancel the walk through L'Aquila's town centre.

Mr Rudd said he was disappointed the protests meant he was unable to pay his respects to the town's local residents because of security concerns.

"I know on behalf of the Australian Italian community that it's been important to reflect here on the concern on the part of Australians the terrible loss of life here in L'Aquila and secondly the damage that has been caused to people's lives through injury and loss of property," he said.

"The process of rebuilding is hard and it's tricky."

The Federal Government has promised to donate up to $1.5 million towards the rebuilding of L'Aquila.

"We intend as a community to get behind a local project, a school or institution, so this will become known as a physical and visual demonstration of the goodwill of the Australian people towards those who suffered here," he said.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/world/g8-family-photo-abandoned-amid-security-fears-20090711-dgdz.html