Bush, Putin unveil nuclear plans at G8
Updated: 2006-07-15 21:03 The United States and Russia announced on Saturday
moves to avert nuclear terrorism and halt the spread of atomic weapons, in a
show of cooperation before a big-power summit.
U.S. President George W.
Bush and Russia's Vladimir Putin unveiled the plans before other Group of Eight
leaders arrived for a summit that will be challenged by violence in the Middle
East, Iran's nuclear ambitions and global trade worries.
U.S. President George
W. Bush (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin embrace at the end of
their joint news conference in St Petersburg, Russia, July 15, 2006.
U.S.-Russia relations, the two men sought to project an image of harmony,
playing down differences over Russia's commitment to democracy, possible
sanctions on Iran and how to react to fighting between Israel and Lebanon's
Referring to each other by their first names, Bush was at
pains to protect Putin from his own administration's charges that the Kremlin
leader was backsliding on democracy.
"I fully understand ... that there
will be a Russian-style democracy. I don't expect Russia to look like the United
States. As Vladimir pointedly reminded me last night, they have a different
history, different traditions," he said.
"We of course don't want to
have a democracy like the one in Iraq, to be honest," quipped Putin, a former
KGB spy known for his dry sense of humour, after Bush cited Iraq as a country
where the United States is promoting democratic freedoms.
The two men,
resurrecting an idea that has been around for some time, announced a plan to
combat the global threat of nuclear terrorism with measures to control nuclear
Separately, Bush backed a Russian plan aimed at preventing the
spread of nuclear weapons by setting up international enrichment centres under
the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Israel's offensive in southern Lebanon, the two leaders pinned blame on
Bush said he and Putin shared common ground on the
nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea. But Putin sidestepped a direct
question about possible sanctions against Iran -- a point of difference with
Washington and some other Western powers.
Nikolas Gvosdev, senior fellow
at Washington-based think tank The Nixon Center, said the news conference broke
little new ground on bilateral trade or the North Korea and Iran standoffs, and
there were signs of disagreement over the Middle East.
"All of these
factors indicate that the St Petersburg summit is not going to produce major
breakthroughs that demonstrate either how relevant the U.S.-Russia partnership
is for global security or the real utility of the G8 summit process itself," he
Putin's main hope for
the summit is to display his nation's new-found self-confidence as it rides an
economic boom as a top oil and gas exporter, and to rid itself of the image of
being an outsider in the group.
The setting for the summit -- that will
also bring together the leaders of Britain, Japan, Canada, Italy, France and
Germany -- in a lavishly restored 18th century palace off the Gulf of Finland
underscores that revival.
The summit will end on Monday with a joint
statement on world issues, a non-binding document that does not tie governments
to a specific course of action.
The goodwill exuded by Bush offset
Russia's disappointment at failing to get a deal with Washington that would pave
the way for Russian entry into the World Trade Organisation.
through after negotiations that went early into the morning failed. "There is
more work to be done," Bush said. But the two sides subsequently agreed to set a
deadline to wrap up talks within three months.
The goodwill also
appeared designed to lighten the shadow of criticism that Putin is rowing back
on democracy by tight control of the media, neutralising the opposition and
centralising power in the Kremlin.
The annual G8 meeting has in the past
drawn sometimes violent anti-globalisation protests. But tight restrictions and
heavy policing ensured that in Russia's second city they were a far cry from
those at previous summits.
As G8 leaders arrived, around 300 protesters,
heavily outnumbered by Russian police, marched through the city centre to
protest against joining the WTO and what they said were moves by Moscow to serve
They shouted "Outlaw the G8" and "Russia without
Putin". There were no serious clashes, but after scuffles police detained more
than 20 protesters who veered off the set route.
A mere 100
anti-globalisation protesters turned out for a rally in a suburban sports
stadium, far from the G8 proceedings, that authorities had made available to
|Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours