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Associated Press

EVIAN, France (AP) - The world's seven richest industrial countries and Russia struggled to reach common ground Saturday on a range of global issues in advance of an economic summit that was likely to be remembered more for the gulf separating the countries than for any modest achievements on combating AIDS or jump-starting global growth.

Aides to President Bush and the other leaders sought to resolve as many disputes as possible regarding various communiques that will be issued during the three days of talks that begin today. The discussions were being held at a luxury hotel with magnificent views of Lake Geneva and the French and Swiss Alps.

A diverse group of anti-globalization protesters, who were being kept far away from the meeting site by police and military units, clashed briefly among themselves and with police, who used tear gas to disperse a crowd of a few hundred.

Bush and the other leaders insisted that the G-8 still will be able to reach consensus on global issues despite the deep divisions in the group exposed by the Iraq war, which saw France, Russia, Germany and Canada refuse to join Britain, Japan and Italy in supporting the U.S.-led war.

Global anti-poverty groups held out hope that the G-8 leaders would try harder to show progress on such issues as fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa in an effort to demonstrate a return to cooperation.

One area where a breakthrough could be achieved was in a major increase in financial support to battle AIDS in Africa. Bush said in a visit to Krakow, Poland, on Saturday that he would challenge other G-8 members to match a $15 billion, five-year U.S. boost in AIDS funding that Bush pushed through Congress in time for this year's summit.

Bush said he would also showcase his administration's proposals to double spending on foreign assistance to poor nations and to create a new famine relief fund, urging similar commitments to help poor nations that agree to pursue democratic and free-market reforms.

In addition to the scourge of AIDS, the G-8 leaders were addressing efforts to meet other U.N. Millennium Development goals such as making clean water and schools available and cutting poverty in half by 2015.

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