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The club of eight industrialized countries, the G8, should promote ties with the former Soviet states
Assistance to them could become a key area of G8's work next year, when Russia will take over the organization's rotating chair. Vladimir Putin said this during a working meeting with Tony Blair in Moscow on Monday. The British premier is touring European G8 members, in particular Paris and Berlin, trying to prepare the agenda and the documents for the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, on July 6-8. The Moscow meeting and the preceding talks of the British premier with the leaders of Italy and the United States showed that the July summit would mostly deal with two subjects: debt write-offs for the poorest countries of Africa, and the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, which is supposed to control climate change. Putin welcomed Blair's idea of writing off the debts of 18 African states, sealed in the agreement that the G8 finance ministers had recently coordinated in London. The Putin-Blair meeting in Moscow showed that Russia could be proud of its generosity: Russia is third in the world after Japan and France in absolute debt write-off figures. This explains the special role of Russia in G8, which is frequently called the club of the rich nations. Though rich in natural, human and cultural resources, Russia is far behind its G8 partners in per capital incomes. But this adds a special meaning to its club membership, because it is easier for Moscow "to understand the problems of transitional economies," as Putin said. The Russian leader suggested that G8 could also help the CIS countries, which logically stems from its efforts to help the poorest countries of Africa. After writing off the debts of the heavily indebted African countries, the global community could give priority attention to the problem of economic backwardness of the newly free states of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Georgia. For poverty and other acute social problems are the root cause of the tremors of political instability that periodically hit the CIS. That instability forces the West and Moscow to view the post-Soviet area as a battlefield. Russia has now suggested a radically different solution: to turn this area into an area of cooperation in promoting the democratic and economic development of the CIS states. Vladimir Putin believes that this could become a priority issue at the G8 summit in Russia next year. Yesterday's working meeting in Moscow showed that Putin and Blair are completely unanimous on the other issue of priority significance for the British premier - control over the Kyoto protocol's implementation. "We should work with the countries that have not joined" the Kyoto protocol, the Russian leader said, meaning primarily the U.S. This view is apparently shared by Tony Blair, who had met with George Bush shortly before but failed to change America's aggressive position on refusing to join the protocol. President Bush continues to cite as the reason the potential loss of "millions" of jobs and "hundreds of billions of dollars in damages." But his main argument is that global warming has not been proved scientifically so far. The latter argument of the American president has been dealt a heavy blow. The academies of sciences of the G8 countries and the researchers of China, Brazil and India the other days called on their governments to take emergency measures to limit the emission of dangerous gases. This apparently answers the U.S. president's questions, and Blair and Putin will have a chance to draw his attention to this fact at the summit in Scotland. The general atmosphere at the Moscow meeting showed that the two countries' relations are not as tense as some international commentators claim. It is true that there was a rather long pause in Putin-Blair contacts; they have not had a full-scale meeting since June 2003. This provoked a rumor that Russia had been offended by London's decision to grant political asylum to disgraced Russian oligarchs and Chechen terrorist leaders. But even if there was some misunderstanding in the past, the two leaders did not mention it at their weekend meeting in Moscow. Blair, who will take the chair of the EU president on July 1, promised to facilitate Russia's rapprochement with the EU. And RIA Novosti sources in the Kremlin said that Putin is planning a working visit to Britain in October. This harmony is particularly pleasing amid constitutional trouble in the European Union
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