British minister backs Russia's future in G8
LONDON, March 31 (RIA Novosti, Alexander Smotrov) - A high-ranking British diplomat said Thursday that kicking Russia out of the G8 would benefit neither side.
Speaking on a special edition of the BBC's flagship political show Question Time being filmed in the Russian capital, Minister for Europe Douglas Alexander rejected plans outlined by U.S. Senator John McCain, who has suggested that Russia be expelled from the group of leading industrialized nations and that President George W. Bush boycott this July's summit in St. Petersburg.
Alexander said global energy issues could not be effectively addressed without Russia. Moscow has declared energy security the No.1 issue for its G8 presidency in 2006.
McCain had criticized Russia's record on human rights and freedom of speech, arguing that it should not be a member of the G8 until they improve. Bush Wednesday rejected the idea of a boycott, news sources reported.
Alexander said the July summit would be a test of Russia's commitment to a free energy market, a vital step toward global energy security and the ratification of the Energy Charter, a unique instrument to promote international cooperation in the energy sector.
The BBC's first special broadcast from the Russian capital brought together prominent figures from Britain and Russia, and focused on Russia's role as the holder of the rotating G8 presidency. The audience, comprising English-speaking Russians and foreigners living in Moscow, discussed Russia's relations with former Soviet states and European integration, as well as political and economic reforms.
Guests also included Russian deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasim, former presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, and other political, business and public figures.