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G8 leaders have agreed new measures to clamp down on money launderers, illegal tax evaders and corporate tax avoiders.

Governments agreed to give each other automatic access to information on their residents’ tax affairs.

They will also require shell companies – often used to exploit tax loopholes and invest money anonymously – to identify their effective owners.

The summit communiqué urged countries to “fight the scourge of tax evasion”.

The measures are designed to combat illegal evasion of taxes, as well as legal tax avoidance by large corporations that make use of loopholes and tax havens.

The summit in Northern Ireland also saw the launch of free trade negotiations between the EU and US, which UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who was hosting the summit, dubbed “the biggest bilateral trade agreement in history”.

Tax, trade and transparency – dubbed “The Three Ts” – were placed at the top of the UK’s agenda for its presidency of the G8, which consists of the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Canada and Japan.

But the summit has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria.

The G8 leaders – including Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad – backed calls for Syrian peace talks to be held in Geneva “as soon as possible”.

David Cameron said the leaders had managed “to overcome fundamental differences”, but no timetable for the Geneva talks was given, and the statement made no mention of what role Bashar al-Assad could play in the future.

Leaders agreed that multinationals should tell all tax authorities about what taxes they pay and where.

“Countries should change rules that let companies shift their profits across borders to avoid taxes,” the communiqué said.

G8 leaders have agreed new measures to clamp down on money launderers, illegal tax evaders and corporate tax avoiders

G8 leaders have agreed new measures to clamp down on money launderers, illegal tax evaders and corporate tax avoiders

It follows revelations about the ways in which several major firms – including Apple, Starbucks and Amazon – have minimized their tax bills.

Illegal activities, including tax evasion and money laundering, will be tackled by the automated sharing of tax information.

Ahead of the summit, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), proposed to share tax information by building on an existing system set up by the US and five major European economies, but on a global scale.

“This international tax tool is going to be a real feature of ensuring that we get proper tax payment and proper tax justice in our world,” said David Cameron, who claimed that it meant “those who want to evade taxes have nowhere to hide”.

The OECD includes all of the G8 members except Russia.

Among the information to be shared will be who actually ultimately benefits from the shadowy shell companies, special purpose companies and trust arrangements often employed by tax evaders and money launderers.

Earlier in the day, Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans for a UK register of companies and their owners.

The White House also announced a similar plan for the US.

Last week the UK also unveiled a deal with its crown dependencies and overseas territories – including the Channel Islands, Gibraltar and Anguilla – to start sharing more information on which foreign companies bank their profits there.

About a fifth of offshore tax havens, which are used by multinationals to shelter cash from the tax authorities, are British dependencies.

“Of course Britain’s got to put its own house in order,” said George Osborne, adding that the government would launch a consultation on whether the register should be published or just be available to the HMRC.

Speaking during the summit, George Osborne said more progress had been made on reforming the global tax system in the past 24 hours than the “past 24 years”.

The G8 communiqué also demanded more transparency from mining firms.

It follows revelations that many major mining companies use complex ownership structures in the Netherlands and Switzerland to avoid paying taxes on the minerals they extract in developing countries.

“Developing countries should have the information and capacity to collect the taxes owed them,” the communiqué said.

“Other countries have a duty to help them.”

The governments agreed that mining companies should disclose all the payments they make, and that “minerals should not be plundered from conflict zones”.

“We agreed that oil, gas and mining companies should report what they pay to governments, and that governments should publish what they receive, so that natural resources are a blessing and not a curse,” said David Cameron.

The G8 leaders also agreed to stamp out ransom payments to kidnappers for the release of hostages.

David Cameron said tens of millions of dollars in ransom money had been paid around the world in the last three years.

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G8 leaders of the world’s most powerful economies say they want debt-stricken Greece to remain in the eurozone.

In their summit communique, G8 leaders also committed themselves to promoting growth alongside fiscal responsibility.

However, the leaders acknowledged “the right measures are not the same for each of us”.

Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone was high on the agenda, following inconclusive elections there.

The leaders of France, Germany, the US, the UK, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia have been meeting at Camp David in the US state of Maryland.

“We agree on the importance of a strong and cohesive eurozone for global stability and recovery, and we affirm our interest in Greece remaining in the eurozone while respecting its commitments,” the statement said.

The global economic recovery was showing signs of progress, they said, but “significant headwinds persist”.

G8 leaders are divided on whether to continue with austerity or back stimulus measures instead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel favors austerity, while newly elected French President Francois Hollande wants to pursue policies for greater growth, as does President Barack Obama.

G8 leaders of the world's most powerful economies say they want debt-stricken Greece to remain in the eurozone

G8 leaders of the world's most powerful economies say they want debt-stricken Greece to remain in the eurozone

There are caveats but the first line of the communique – about promoting growth and jobs – means Presidents Obama and Hollande have won the day.

However, it is not clear that Angela Merkel has got their message and is prepared to act on it, our correspondent adds.

US officials said Angela Merkel would hold a one-on-one meeting with Barack Obama later on Saturday.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said there would be another key meeting in June in Rome, where he would host Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel.

Earlier, UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for deficit reduction.

“There is a growing sense of urgency that action needs to be taken, contingency plans need to be put in place and the strengthening of banks, governments, firewalls and all of those things need to take place very fast,” he told reporters at Camp David.

The likelihood of Greece leaving the euro is growing.

The office of the Greek interim prime minister said on Friday that Angela Merkel had suggested the country hold a referendum on euro membership on election day, but the German chancellor’s cabinet dismissed this as “false”.

Greek voters will again go to the polls on 17 June after earlier elections failed to produce a viable coalition to run the country.

A caretaker government was sworn in this week after elections.

Investors fear any refusal by Athens to impose deep spending cuts agreed under a bailout deal could result in the country quitting the bloc of 17 countries that use the euro.

Two opinion polls published on Saturday showed the anti-bailout left-wing Syriza bloc neck and neck with centre-right New Democracy, both on about 25%.

Larger countries such as Spain or Italy struggling to ease their debt loads might then become vulnerable, potentially triggering wider eurozone upheaval and even a global financial crisis to rival the one of 2008.

The G8 summit has now moved on to other issues, including food security, energy and climate, partnerships in North Africa and the Middle East and the war in Afghanistan.

After the G8 summit ends on Saturday evening, most of the leaders will decamp to Chicago to join a larger group of international officials for a NATO summit on Sunday and Monday, at which Afghanistan is expected to be the main item on the agenda.

Three men arrested in Chicago on suspicion of planning to throw petrol bombs at the NATO summit have been charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism and possession of an explosive or incendiary device.

Prosecutor Anita Alvarez said the campaign headquarters of President Barack Obama and the home of mayor Rahm Emanuel were among the targets.