Blair prepares for hectic G8 summit

Prime Minister Tony Blair flew into his last G8 summit last night braced for a clash with Russia, farewell talks with President George Bush and a final push to secure a climate change deal.

Prime Minister Tony Blair flew into his last G8 summit last night braced for a clash with Russia, farewell talks with President George Bush and a final push to secure a climate change deal.

Mr Blair warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that European trade with his country would suffer unless he embraced the continent's common values and principles.

Today he will have breakfast talks with President Bush, his last before the removal vans - which began arriving at No 10 yesterday - finally usher him out of Downing Street.

And at the two-day gathering of world leaders in Heiligendamm, on Germany's Baltic coast, Mr Blair urgently wants agreement on a way forward on global warming, as well as a further push on his Gleneagles goals on aid to Africa.

His row with Russia stems from President Putin's refusal to extradite ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy, accused of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London, and also the Russian president's threat to aim his missiles at Europe if American plans for a defensive missile shield go ahead.

Mr Blair told MPs in the Commons before leaving for Germany: "We want good relations with Russia but that can only be done on the basis we have shared principles and shared values."

If that were not the case, warned the Prime Minister: "The consequence is that people in Europe will want to minimise the business that they do with Russia."

Earlier, Mr Blair told the BBC: "I think the sensible thing, and this is what I'll do certainly when I meet President Putin, is just to have a frank conversation about the state of the relationship between not simply Britain but Europe and Russia."

Those bilateral talks are scheduled to take place shortly before Mr Blair leaves the summit on Friday afternoon. But they are also certain to dominate his final one-to-one conversation with the US President today - along with America's latest offer to seek global consensus on climate change, boost its spending to alleviate HIV/Aids suffering in Africa and the latest situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On climate change, Mr Blair told MPs: "What will be important at the G8 is that for the first time we managed to get agreement on the science of climate change and the fact that it's human activity that's causing it."

He said secondly he wanted global agreement for a post-Kyoto target, at the heart of which "has to be a global target for a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and that should be followed through by the United Nations process".

He continued: "These are the key things we need out of the G8."

But he went on: "I don't think we should forget in this the necessity of keeping to our commitments on Africa."

Global summit

EVEN before it started, this year's G8 meeting in Germany has been caught up in controversy over diplomatic posturing and key issues.

Q: What is happening at the G8 summit?

A: The leaders of the world's major industrialised democracies, the US, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia, are meeting at Heiligendamm for discussions on a number of global issues.

The G8 does not have a fixed structure and it is up to the country that has the presidency - currently Germany - to set the agenda and organise the annual summit.

Q: What are the key issues of the summit?

A: The main topics on the agenda will be Africa, where Tony Blair has urged the other nations in the G8 to deliver on promises on debt relief and aid made in 2005 at the Gleneagles summit, and climate change.

The German government has also said it will talk about investment, stability of financial markets, innovation, strengthening the social dimension of globalisation and liberalisation of world trade.

Q: Will the G8 succeed in reaching agreement on climate change?

A: The US looks set to scupper attempts by Britain and Germany to make a "historic breakthrough" in agreeing the next phase of climate change measures after Kyoto and setting tough new targets for reducing emissions.

President George Bush's call for a "new global framework" on climate change in the run-up to the summit has been seen by some as the first sign the US is prepared to tackle the issue.

But environmentalists fear the proposal for a separate summit in the autumn will knock the momentum out of G8 talks on climate change, ahead of a UN conference in Bali which aims to agree targets to limit global temperature rises to 2C.

Q: What about Africa?

A: Tony Blair has urged the G8 to "step up to the plate" on aid for Africa while Germany has pledged to make the continent central to the talks, calling for more aid, further debt relief and improved financial oversight.

Q: Will other issues dominate the three-day meeting?

A: Attempts to reach agreement on climate change and aid could be overshadowed by the diplomatic row over the US's proposed missile defence system in Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European cities in retaliation at America's plans to site key elements of its "missile shield" in eastern Europe, heightening tensions between east and west in a throw-back to the Cold War.

President George Bush has sought to calm the situation with an invitation to Russia to co-operate on the scheme and send generals and scientists to view details of the system in the USA, but it could still prove to be a frosty meeting.

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