Moscow pushes for G7 summit on aid

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The Independent Online
AN EMERGENCY summit of the Group of Seven industrial nations on aid to Moscow became a possibility yesterday as Russia's Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, said he would discuss the prospect when he meets his US counterpart in Washington this week.

At the same time, it emerged that a senior official from Japan, the current G7 chairman, is due to see President Francois Mitterrand in Paris today to discuss G7 efforts to help Russia. Mr Mitterrand had been the only leader hitherto to advocate such a summit.

But if the aim is for Boris Yeltsin to attend the summit, the planning would be complicated given the risks of his absenting himself from Moscow. One proposal is for G7 leaders to join President Yeltsin and President Clinton in Vancouver, where the two are due to meet on 4 April. Mr Clinton offered yesterday to change the venue to Moscow if the Russian President wished it; but the prospect of all seven leaders turning up in Moscow while the situation there is unresolved is unlikely.

'We should probably . . . discuss the possibility of a meeting of G7 leaders,' said Mr Kozyrev, who travels to Washington today. 'We should probably try to organise something now . . . This would be another opportunity to draw in other states for the development of an economic programme.'

Last week Japan, extremely reluctant to hold an early G7 summit before the regular one in Tokyo in July, made clear it would go no further than to call a special meeting of G7 foreign and finance ministers in Tokyo next month. But yesterday the Japanese Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, conceded: 'There is still talk of moving up the summit, but it would be difficult to make sufficient preparation.' Japan has been stung by accusations that it is holding back because of its bilateral dispute with Moscow over the Kurile Islands.

Britain, which had been almost as reluctant as Japan to countenance an early summit for the sake of it, seemed to be toning down its opposition. An official said the government was 'not rigidly against a special summit' but warned that there must be a concrete package to offer. A summit perceived by the world as having failed was worse than no summit at all.

Mr Miyazawa said he supported Mr Yeltsin's reform policies but could not voice any support for the President himself since this was a domestic issue for the Russians. 'The situation is uncertain and fluid. We are doing our best to collect information,' said Yohei Kono, the chief cabinet secretary.

Japan is caught in a familiar foreign policy dilemma: it would like to be seen to be taking some initiative in the crisis, particularly at the G7 level. But it cannot shake the habit of reacting to what others do and say first - in Europe, and above all in Washington. Tokyo had hoped the July summit could be meticulously choreographed long in advance to reflect well on Japan and its avowed aim to become more internationalised.