The Naples Summit: Yeltsin is admitted to world's top club as a political equal: Seven become eight as Russian President, third time lucky, hails his country's acceptance and recognition as 'a democratic state'

BORIS YELTSIN has become a de facto member of a political Group of Eight, leaders at the world economic summit said yesterday.

Mr Yeltsin, who attended the political talks of the G7 leaders for the third year in succession, said after the session concluded: 'Russia has virtually been accepted into the world community; it has been recognised as a democratic state.'

As Western leaders happily bandied the term 'G8' throughout yesterday's political discussions, rather than, as in the previous two years, 'G7 plus one', French President Francois Mitterrand summed up the development: 'Before, we held discussions with Yeltsin about problems between Russia and us; now, he and we discuss political problems across the board.'

At a joint press conference with President Bill Clinton, a feisty President Yeltsin declared: 'I need to cast off this red jacket of President of Russia. I've been wearing it for three years now.' Including Mr Yeltsin as a political equal was a way for the seven to satisfy him for now, without throwing further money at his country. Mr Yeltsin, who did not attend the economic deliberations, said Russia was not asking for money from the Group of Eight; but he did press for more open trade with the West. 'It is more important to be recognised as an equal partner - and then we will earn money together,' he said.

Mr Clinton refrained from endorsing Mr Yeltsin's claim to be a fully paid-up member of the G7 political summit. But John Major and Jean Chretien, the Canadian Prime Minister, made clear their view that Russian membership was now a foregone conclusion.

Mr Major said it was 'vital to have Russia as an equal partner in our political work.' And at the end of the summit, Mr Chretien, the host of next year's summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, issued an immediate invitation to Mr Yeltsin - the first such automatic inclusion of the Russian president.

Mr Yeltsin urged the G7 to drop restrictions on trade with Russia, especially its potential exports of hi-tech goods to the US market. Mr Clinton said restrictions on Western technology exports to Russia under Cocom had been abolished; but laws in many Western countries still maintained those restrictions. 'We need a new order to replace Cocom,' he said.

Mr Yeltsin warned of drawbacks of not lifting trade restrictions with his country. Asked what he would do about his country's exports to states like Iran, and other countries regarded as sponsors of terrorism, he replied: 'We are attempting to limit this trade. We are attempting to do that.' However, Russia was persuaded to join the G7 in agreeing not to ease United Nations sanctions on Iraq, including an oil embargo, arising from the 1991 Gulf war.

In a reminder that there is not full agreement with the West on Russia's policy towards its 'near abroad', he said he would withdraw Russian troops from Latvia by the agreed 31 August deadline, but 'Estonia is for us more complex. I have in mind cruel violations of human rights towards Russian military pensioners.'

But Mr Yeltsin pledged to exert pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to accept an international peace plan developed by the 'contact groups' in which Moscow has been working with four Western powers to find a lasting settlement.

The seven used the closing 'chairman's statement' to emph asise the equal role they were according to Russia: 'This partnership, which is a reflection of the reforms that have taken place in Russia, reaffirms our wish to tackle together today's problems in a constructive and responsible manner.'

(Photograph omitted)

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