G7 agrees job summit and nuclear safety talks

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Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Group of Seven summit was hijacked by the Bosnia crisis and preoccupied by economic issues. But when President Boris Yeltsin of Russia arrived to join the political discussions, making up the so-called "P8", the leaders managed to agree a declaration which will set the tone for a wide range of international negotiations over the year ahead.

Two new summits were agreed - the "Jobs Summit" sought by President Jacques Chirac and scheduled for the first half of 1996 in France; and a summit in Moscow next year on the practices of civil nuclear safety.

The "P8" also pronounced in favour of reforms of the United Nations and a fairer method of assessing payments by member countries. At present, the United States is expected to pay a disproportionate amount. Although, as the Prime Minister John Major observed, this was "emphatically not something the G7 could or should impose on the United Nations", there is no doubt that the general assent of Russia and the combined influence of the G7 - the US, Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Japan and Italy - is bound to carry new weight in a campaign for a revitalised UN.

All the leaders expressed the desire for an improved "early warning system" to alert the UN to impending crises and, with one eye on the debacles in Bosnia and Somalia, they said peace-keeping forces should only be dispatched under "realistic mandates" and with better planning and support.

In spite of the furore caused by France's decision to relaunch a finite programme of nuclear tests, all eight pledged themselves to work for a complete and verifiable test-ban treaty and for a cut-off in the production of fissile material. They also promised to work together to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear technology and sensitive material. They welcomed the indefinite extension of the nu- clear Non-Proliferation Treaty and called on North Korea to meet its international obligations and to refrain from weapons production.

In a more sanctimonious passage, the leaders, who represent most of the world's biggest arms exporters, voiced their "great concern" about the "excessive transfers of conventional arms, particularly to areas of conflict". This subject was laid blandly to rest with a call for greater transparency and conformity with international law. The declaration also voiced ritual concerns about human rights, terrorism, the environment and organised crime.

All the countries committed themselves to stability and co-operation in Europe, working through Nato's Partnership for Peace programme and the new Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Western ministers were satisfied that President Yeltsin and his Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, reaffirmed their desire to negotiate new security arrangements including the Baltic States, the Ukraine and the former Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe.

The Russians were also co-operative, on paper at least, with concerns in the West over Iran. The joint declaration pledged all states "to desist from any collaboration with Iran that could contribute to the acquisition by that country of a capacity for the production of nuclear weapons".

There continues to be controversy between Washington and Moscow over Russian plans to sell reactors and other civil nuclear technology to Iran but US officials hoped Russian acceptance of this clause would strengthen its pledge to exercise vigilance over transfers of technology to Tehran.

The British government, for its part, expressed satisfaction at the first declaration by the G7 and Russia demanding that Iran cease threatening the life of the writer Salman Rushdie.

The next G7 summit will take place in Lyons, France, from 27 to 29 June next year. Gourmets are advised to make their bookings in the city's fabled restaurants well in advance.

IMF's expanding role, page 18