Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other world leaders were forced to abandon a traditional ‘family’ photo at a summit in Italy amid fears a protester had infiltrated their gathering.
Mr Rudd had begun assembling with his fellow 38 world leaders for a post-summit photo at L’Aquila when suddenly security staff swooped in and began whisking away some leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, before they could be snapped.
Television images showed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi apparently in the midst of the disarray as leaders began scattering across the forecourt area of the L’Aquila military barracks, where the summit was held.
Afterwards Mr Rudd said he was unaware of precisely what caused the leaders to abandon their photo opportunity, which happened just minutes after they had posed in front a large building to mark its renaming as Piazza 6 April in tribute to the deadly earthquake which hit the town this year.
“I have no idea, I just kind of find somewhere to stand you know,” he told reporters.
Asked if he thought there had been some sort of security scare, Mr Rudd said: “Not that I’m aware of, none whatsoever.”
Rudd missed tour of devastated town
It was the first of two events Mr Rudd had cancelled on Friday, the final day of the G8 and Major Economies forum.
The prime minister had to pull out of a tour of the earthquake ravaged town of L’Aquila after protesters stormed in to demonstrate against the world leaders’ summit.
Mr Rudd had planned to follow in the footsteps of France’s glamourous first lady Carla Bruni and Hollywood star George Clooney and inspect the damage inflicted on the town by the deadly April earthquake.
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.”
5000 demonstrators marched towards leaders
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,” Mr Rudd said.
AFP reported that about 5,000 demonstrators and local residents began their protest march towards the leaders’ summit headquarters from one of the many tent villages in the town housing the thousands of people left homeless by the quake, which killed 299 people.
However, the march was kept well away from the “red zone” established around the summit venue by about 15,000 police and it passed off without incident.