Friday October 9th, 2015 5:56PM

G-8 advances on Syrian peace talks, tax evasion

By The Associated Press
ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland (AP) -- President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other G-8 leaders attempted to speak with one voice Tuesday on seeking a negotiated Syrian peace settlement - yet couldn't publicly agree whether this means President Bashar Assad must go.

Their declaration at the end of the two-day Group of Eight summit sought to narrow the diplomatic chasm between Assad's key backer, Russia, and Western leaders on starting peace talks in Geneva to end a two-year civil war that has claimed an estimated 93,000 lives. Its key passage

G-8 leaders also published sweeping goals for tightening the tax rules on globe-trotting corporations that long have exploited loopholes to shift profits into foreign shelters that charge little tax or none. But that initiative, aimed at forcing the Googles and Apples of the world to pay higher taxes, contained only aspirations, no binding commitments.

The declaration on Syria said the country needs a new coalition government with "a top leadership that inspires public confidence," a definition that to British, French or American eyes would rule out Assad. It made no reference to sending U.S., British or French weapons to rebels, an option being kept open by all three G-8 members, most likely America.

Russia refused to back any declaration that made Assad's ouster an explicit goal, arguing that it would be impossible to start peace talks with a predetermined outcome.

Reflecting the profound divisions that remain, the British host, Prime Minister David Cameron, declared it was "unthinkable that President Assad can play any part in the future government of his country. He has blood on his hands. He has used chemical weapons."

Putin - speaking at the same time as Cameron at a different location in a gesture that some diplomats construed as rude - rejected Cameron's views as unproven.

And referring to last month's butchery of an off-duty British soldier in London by ax- and knife-wielding Muslim extremists, Putin warned Cameron that the weapons sent to Syria might end up being used to kill people in Europe.

"There are many such criminals in the ranks of the (Syrian) opposition, such as those who committed the brutal murder in London. Do the Europeans want to provide such people with weapons? ... We are calling on all our partners to thoroughly think it over again before taking this very dangerous step," Putin said.

Reflecting growing unease at the behavior of Muslim extremists in the ranks of Syria's splintered opposition forces, the G-8 declaration said participants in any peace talks must agree to expel al-Qaida-linked fighters from the country.

The declaration condemned human rights abuses committed by government forces and rebels alike, and called on both sides to permit access by U.N.-led chemical weapons experts trying to investigate the contentious claims of chemical weapons use.

In its only concrete commitment, the plan commits a further $1.5 billion in aid for Syrians driven from their homes by the conflict: 4.2 million within Syria and 1.6 million more taking refuge in neighboring countries. The G-8 noted that the new funds would cover only part of the United Nations' 2013 appeal for $5.2 billion in Syria-directed aid.

Rebels, who have suffered tactical reversals in recent weeks versus Assad's Russian-supplied army, expressed disappointment with the G-8 verdict.

"We expected more. We expected a more solid statement, a more decisive one," said Loay AlMikdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, speaking by telephone from Turkey.

AlMikdad said the Free Syrian Army hopes the statement's weakness would be counterbalanced by strong Western intervention on the ground to send weapons. This, he said, would help deter al-Qaida-influenced movements from taking root in rebel-held areas.

"The international community, especially those who say they are friends of Syria, must be more decisive and firm," he said.

But a White House official, speaking to reporters as Obama flew to Berlin, said the U.S. administration was pleased with the outcome and had been braced for less agreement.

"This in no way minimizes the difficulties ahead," said White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. "But given the various ways the G-8 could have gone, we believe that on the key issues of political transition, humanitarian support and chemical weapons investigation, it's very helpful to have this type of signal sent by these eight countries."

Earlier, G-8 leaders announced new goals to combat tax avoidance by multinational companies. In a joint statement they said tax authorities should share information "to fight the scourge of tax evasion" and make it harder for companies to "shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes."

Britain heralded the agreement as a good first step toward creating a new environment of corporate transparency. A key principle in the plan would require multinationals to declare how much tax they pay in each country.

U.S. Senate hearings this year investigating the tax payment policies of Apple found that the smartphone and computer innovator also has developed some of the world's most innovative tax-avoidance policies. Apple admitted it used, legally, two companies registered in Ireland - but in one case managed from the U.S. state of Nevada - to manage much of the company's non-U.S. profits worldwide and paid taxes at a rate of less than 1 percent.

British lawmakers likewise have sharply criticized Google UK for registering all of its regional sales in neighboring Ireland, which charges half the rate of corporate tax.

Many of the world's leading companies, and even bands like U2, employ complex corporate structures involving multiple subsidiaries in several countries to minimize the tax bills in their home nation. One such maneuver, called the "double Irish with a Dutch sandwich," allows foreign companies to send profits through one Irish company, then to a Dutch company and finally to a second nominally Irish company that is headquartered in a usually British tax haven.

Campaigners for greater tax transparency appealed to the G-8 to ensure that reforms benefited the poorest countries of Africa, South America and Asia as well as the rich West. Anti-poverty campaigners stressed that shell companies provide a key mechanism for embezzling government funds in corrupt countries.

Cameron says Britain will lead by example by creating a registry of who really owns companies, and will consider making it public - an idea viewed skeptically by many other countries fearful of scaring companies out of their jurisdictions.

And Britain itself stands accused of being one of the world's main links in the tax-avoidance chain. Several of Britain's own island territories - including Jersey, Guernsey and the British Virgin Islands - serve as shelters and funnel billions each week through the City of London.

"Of course, Britain's got to put its own house in order," said Britain's treasury chief, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who addressed the G-8 meeting on corporate tax reform along with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

She commended the G-8 initiative as necessary to address taxpayers' indignation at corporate tax-dodging and reflected the fact that "almost all governments need additional revenues."

Before the summit, Britain announced a provisional agreement with the finance chiefs of nine British offshore dependencies and territories to improve their sharing of information on individuals and companies banking cash there.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 2 weeks ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 2 weeks ago )