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Tony Blair Arrives in Russia to Meet Vladimir Putin

MosNews | June 13, 2005

British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Moscow on Sunday evening to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. The talks between the two leaders are expected to touch upon African poverty and climate change — the themes that will be later discussed at the Group of Eight summit.

The Reuters news agency reports that Blair will meet four leaders in two days as he steps up preparations for the G8 gathering of the world’s major industrialised nations at the luxury Gleneagles country hotel in Scotland from July 6-8.

He will be buoyed by an agreement by G8 finance ministers in London on Saturday to write off more than $40 billion of poor countries’ debts.

But Blair, who flew into Moscow on Sunday night, is also likely to raise issues such as Western concerns over Russia’s human rights record when he meets Putin at the president’s country residence outside the Russian capital on Monday.

The prime minister will also visit Germany, France and Luxembourg during his trip. British officials acknowledge the crisis in the European Union and the row over the EU budget and Britain’s rebate will figure prominently in those discussions.

Britain believes Russia generally supports London’s priorities for the G8 while it holds the presidency this year, the prime minister’s spokesman said.

In particular, London says Moscow can play a role in putting pressure on emerging economic powers such as China and India to sign up to targets on limiting carbon dioxide emissions which most scientists agree contribute to global warming.

Britain also believes Russia has concluded it must address the concerns of Western states and investors about human rights and the rule of law, highlighted by the controversial conviction on fraud charges of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Blair’s spokesman said recent remarks by Putin on human rights had been encouraging and Britain was anxious to hear how the president planned to pursue the issue.

“We have not hidden the fact that we have had some concerns,” he said. “We will not stop airing our concerns.”

Blair dines with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder later on Monday in Berlin, where the fate of the planned EU constitution —- rejected by French and Dutch voters —- and the EU budget will be on the agenda.

Schroeder has said all sides must compromise if EU leaders are to reach a deal on the bloc’s 2007-2013 budget framework at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

But both France and Britain have issued staunch defences of their opposing positions.

Blair has said Britain’s rebate is only up for discussion if the EU reforms its agricultural subsidy system, which is of particular benefit to French farmers. French President Jacques Chirac has ruled out any change to that scheme.

Blair meets Chirac on Tuesday after talks with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, who is trying to broker a deal.

In what is sure to be interpreted as a sign of cool relations between Blair and Chirac, British officials say they are not aware of any plans for the customary joint news conference after the two men hold their talks.

 

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