Blair calls G7 talks on Russia

TONY BLAIR yesterday invited senior representatives from the Group of Seven industrial nations to London for urgent talks on Russia's mounting political and economic crisis, writes Marie Woolf.

They will assess the fallout from the crisis and define conditions on which the West can help Russia. Downing Street stressed that any rescue package would be dependent on "continuing economic reform".

The snap meeting follows talks with US President Bill Clinton, who briefed Mr Blair on the state of the economy after his visit to Moscow last week. Mr Clinton is thought to have painted a gloomy picture of Russia's economic situation and President Yeltsin's grip on affairs.

The talks will cover the effect of the rouble's drop in value on European Monetary Union, the political fallout, and how much British banks could lose through loans and investments. Economists put the figure at $1bn. Officials may also raise the control of Russia's nuclear arsenal which contains as many as 40,000 warheads.

"We need to be in a position to be ready to act quickly when the new government is formed in Russia," Mr Blair's official spokesman said. "We will be considering our support but any help has got to be tied to continuing economic reform."

The emergency meeting, chaired by Sir Nigel Wicks, deputy Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, will include senior offcials from the IMF, World Bank and European Commission. But it falls short of a fully fledged summit following objections by Germany's Chancellor Kohl.

Report, page 16; Focus, page 22

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