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Putin Raises Profile in Run-Up to G-8 Summit


Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Iran Tuesday to accept an international nuclear deal. Mr. Putin has made several public appearance in the run-up to the summit of the seven most industrialized countries and Russia in St. Petersburg next week, touching on various key issues, from Iran to alternative sources of energy.

In one meeting Tuesday, Mr. Putin urged Iran to accept the international plan aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran's nuclear program. He called on Iran to respond positively to a package of economic and other incentives offered by Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, hopefully before mid-July when leaders of the G-8 group meet in St. Petersburg.

Iran has said it will have an answer sometime in August, a time frame described as unacceptable by President George W. Bush.

Mr. Putin also met with representatives of non-governmental organizations from around the world. He sought to reassure the NGO representatives that a controversial law passed earlier this year will not disrupt the work of human rights, environmental and other non-governmental organizations in Russia.

He said the law was misunderstood by many in the outside world who claim it will not allow NGOs to function in Russia, and that government will take NGOs concerns into account as the law is implemented.

During his talk a rare protest took place when six anti-nuclear campaigners stood up wearing T-shirts that spelled out "No To Nuclear Power Stations" just as the Russian president was defending the use of nuclear power.

Mr. Putin instructed security guards not to detain the protesters, as has happened in such situations in the past. He said the protesters have the right to express themselves, and later the men applauded when Mr. Putin said alternatives to nuclear energy should also be pursued.

At times Mr. Putin smiled and even cracked jokes in what some commentators here called his charm offensive ahead of the G-8 summit, which he is hosting.