Under pressure from Group of Eight leaders, ministers from six key trade powers are to start intensive meetings to rescue the deeply troubled Doha round, officials said on Monday.

Ministers from the European Union, the United States, Brazil, Japan, India and Australia will gather at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy flys back from the G8 summit in St Petersburg to lead the talks, with political backing from the heads of the world's industrialized nations to push hard to craft a deal on measures to help lift millions from poverty.

We do not have the luxury of postponing this any longer, European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said in Brussels. Mandelson said he was prepared to stay in talks for as long as it takes.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a landing zone for agreement at this next stage of the negotiations, he told Reuters. What is needed is (for) everyone to recognize that and negotiate within that landing zone.

I was somewhat pessimistic. I am less pessimistic now, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, adding that G8 leaders had spoken very strongly about the necessary flexibility being given to negotiators to get a trade deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed Blair's optimism.

She told reporters it was exceptionally gratifying to hear from Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa that as long as the developed world was serious about combating poverty, they would also do everything to bring the negotiations in the next few weeks forward and make them a success.


G8 leaders on Sunday set a one-month deadline to get the Doha round back on track. Talks two weeks ago aimed at reviving the negotiations failed to get off the ground.

Key to progress is how much the United States will cut farm subsidies, how much the European Union will lower tariffs on farm imports and how much developing countries will reduce barriers to industrial and service imports.

There was no public talk of compromise on the substance of the crucial problems dividing rich countries and the G20 lobby of developing nations.

The round, launched at the end of 2001 with the official aim of boosting the economies of developing countries and removing many remaining barriers to global trade, faces a year-end deadline for completion.

Leaders of emerging nations such as China, India and Brazil attended an outreach session on trade at the summit on Monday.

G8 officials said the position of Brazil, which heads the influential G20 bloc, was now key after the G8 had presented a united front on the talks on Sunday.

I am convinced that now is the time for us to make a political decision, said Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Negotiators don't have any hidden cards in their pockets, he added.

If no breakthrough comes in the next few weeks, experts say there is a risk the whole round could be put on ice for several years as the U.S. president's fast track power to approve trade deals without a vote in Congress expires in mid-2007.

France opposes any fresh concessions from the EU because of fears that will hit its powerful farming lobby. French President Jacques Chirac repeated on Monday his view Brussels could offer nothing more without others moving first.

Anti-poverty campaigners expressed skepticism that the Doha process could move forward without concessions by key players.

The U.S. and Europe did not deliver the dramatic move needed to save the WTO talks from collapse, Oxfam International spokesman Max Lawson said. The WTO talks are on the road to nowhere and the G8 leaders couldn't find the map.

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan, Jeff Mason, Louis Charbonneau, Gernot Heller and David Clarke in St Petersburg, Robert Evans in Geneva and William Schomberg in Brussels)