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By Todd Richissin, The Baltimore Sun Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 2--EVIAN, France--As world leaders began to gather for an economic summit that many hoped would heal the diplomatic wounds caused by the war in Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac offered a crooked smile and the briefest of handshakes as he met with President Bush yesterday for the first time since the end of hostilities.
With the world watching to see if they would move past their personal bitterness to concentrate without distraction on the world's problems -- the economy, security, AIDS, poverty and deadly shortages of drinking water for the poorest of people -- Bush and Chirac exchanged strained hellos then headed to lunch at a posh hotel in the French Alps at which some rooms go for $2,000 a night.
The encounter came at the opening of the Group of Eight summit -- once an informal event at which the leaders of the world's industrial powers and Russia could discuss the global economy in a relaxed atmosphere.
As the strained greetings indicated yesterday, those days, at least for the time being, are gone.
Despite an agenda to address problems that could cost millions of lives, mostly in Africa, the dispute between Bush and Chirac -- and to a lesser degree German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- hung over the summit like the thick …