G7 snubs demand by Yeltsin to join club: In closed session at G7 summit, frosty silence greets Russian leader's demand for a seat at the top table

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The Independent Online
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LEADERS of the world's richest democracies yesterday snubbed President Boris Yeltsin when he pressed for Russia's immediate admission to the Group of Seven.

In a closed session with G7 leaders at the end of their three-day Tokyo summit, his peremptory request for inclusion as the eighth member was met with total silence, according to sources close to the meeting.

His subsequent request that the G7 make a gesture towards Russia by issuing a joint political declaration with the Russian Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, received an equally frosty response, the sources said.

The session appeared to signal the end of a love affair between the Russian President and the G7 states that was the hallmark of last year's Munich summit.

The seven - the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, France, Italy and Germany - asked Mr Yeltsin to answer concerns from progress towards constitutional democracy to his treatment of other former Soviet republics. He replied in blunt terms. When one Western leader asked him about the lack of reform and the potential nuclear threat in Ukraine, he replied: 'It's not my fault if things go badly there. Anyway, they know that all I have to do is cut off the gas and they'll come to Moscow on their knees.' Ukraine imports nearly all its oil and gas from Russia.

Each of the summiteers put a different question to Mr Yeltsin to test his viability and commitment to reform. He was asked if he planned to hand over the Russian-held plans of nuclear power installations in other former Soviet republics; to clarify his position over the fighting in Georgia; to explain the role of Russia's central bank; and to give an account of the Russian parliament power struggle.

The inside account of the session contrasted sharply with the official version of events, which aimed at glossing over the differences which emerged in the closed meeting. At a press conference, the Russian President said that 'time is on our side, we're bound to be part of the G8 sooner or later . . . We are not rushing into G7.'

He complained bitterly about 'discriminatory measures' preventing the export of high-technology products to Western markets. The Seven promised only to intensify efforts to abolish the restrictions, not to lift them outright.

During Mr Yeltsin's absence from Moscow, the conservative Russian parliament yesterday proclaimed the Crimean port of Sevastopol Russian property. The decision provoked an angry response from President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, who denounced it as illegal, and said it threatened stability throughout the former Soviet Union. Mr Kravchuk called on the international community to reject the resolution.