Leaders of the world's industrialised powers warned Wednesday that the global economy remains in danger and backed away from pledges on global warming as they started their annual summit.
The build-up to the Group of Eight gathering in L'Aquila, which was devastated by an earthquake less than 100 days ago, was overshadowed by turmoil in China which prompted President Hu Jintao to hurry back to Beijing.
Summit preparations were also marred by protests on the eve of the arrival of US President Barack Obama and about two dozen other heads of state and government. Italian police made around 40 arrests when demonstrators hurled bottles and set fire to tyres on the streets of Rome.
As talks started in a military barracks, it emerged that a draft summit declaration made no mention of a previous pledge to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and there were few concrete measures to bolster the global economy.
The summit brought together leaders from the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. But in a sign of the shifting balance of power, much of the discussion will be expanded to include emerging powers India, China, Brazil and South Africa.
While the focus is largely on the global economy, leaders will thrash out issues such as climate change, world trade and food security as well as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes.
It is the biggest international gathering since a landmark Group of 20 summit in April when one trillion dollars was committed to the International Monetary Fund and other global bodies to help struggling economies.
According to a copy of a joint declaration agreed at a working lunch, the G8 leaders may have detected some positive signs but do not believe the global economy is safe yet.
"While there are signs of stabilisation, including recovery in stock markets ... the situation remains uncertain and significant risks remain to economic and financial stability," said the statement.
The communique was vague however about what further steps were needed.
"We commit ... to continue to provide macro-economic stimulus consistent with price stability and medium-term fiscal sustainability," said the text.
"Exit strategies will vary depending on economic conditions and public finances," it added.
Ahead of the meeting, a senior White House official said it was important the G8 did not opt for a quick-fix.
"The G8 shares a perspective that it's important that we come out of this with a balanced and sustained growth, that we take the necessary actions to do so, and that we return to fiscal sustainability over the mid-term," said Mike Froman, deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs.
Efforts to combat global warming also featured prominently on the agenda. A European Union official said the G8 had dropped a pledge to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"There is indeed a very strong commitment to identify the global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050, but there is no 50 percent" mentioned in a draft declaration, the official said, on condition of anonymity.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had planned to raise the violence in China's Xinjiang region in talks with Hu during the summit, but he dramatically cut short his trip and went home to work on the crisis.
Chinese officials say 156 people died in riots in the regional capital Urumqi where a massive security clampdown has been imposed.
Russia has argued that issues such as Xinjiang and Iran's political crisis are "internal matters".
But Obama and the leaders of France and Britain want the G8 summit to add to the pressure on Tehran. Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said however there was not yet a consensus on a joint stance on the tensions in Iran.
On North Korea, Frattini said the leaders would issue a "strong message of condemnation" over Pyongyang's nuclear bomb and missile tests.
Obama is one of a number of leaders due to be taken on a tour by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of the villages at the epicentre of the April 6 quake which claimed 299 lives.
"Obviously our hearts were broken by the death and destruction that took place after the earthquake," said Obama after meeting Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in rome.
Berlusconi is hoping the event will deflect attention away from lurid headlines about his private life, which he dismissed Tuesday as "all lies".
Around 15,000 police have been deployed to prevent a repeat of the riots the last time Italy hosted a G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. One protestor was fatally shot by police then.