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Putin to Host EU Summit in Moscow - 2004-05-20

Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to host the first summit between Russia and the member states of the newly enlarged European Union in Moscow. On the eve of the summit, negotiators from both sides were still trying to reach agreement on trade issues.

The two issues most likely to dominate Friday's summit are the conditions for Russia's long-sought entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Russia's position on the Kyoto Protocol on reducing pollution.

The protocol is aimed at reducing contamination by what are called greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, which many scientists blame for global warming. Russia is important for putting the protocol into effect because it only becomes binding when countries producing 55 percent of such pollution in the world have ratified it.

EU officials have accused Russia of using Kyoto as a bargaining chip to try to gain more favorable entry conditions into the World Trade Organization, especially in the energy sphere.

On the eve of the summit, Kyoto clearly remains problematic.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov told a news conference that while Russia shares the goals of the Kyoto Protocol, it can not accept the conditions it contains.

"Mr. Chizhov said that ratification requires a political consensus that he says has not yet been reached in Russia," Mr. Chizhov said. "He said there are still different points of view on Kyoto, both politically and scientifically and he warned against hopes of any major breakthrough at Friday's summit.

Earlier this week, a group of leading Russian scientists advised President Putin against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, including the Director of the Global Climate and Ecology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The official, Yuri Izrael, said he thinks Kyoto lacks scientific merit and is not in Russia's best interest economically.

Mr. Izrael said the decision now rests with the Putin government, but that he does not believe that a "Yes" vote by Russia on Kyoto would solve the problem of global warming.

On a more positive note, negotiators from both sides say hopes are running high that, at minimum, final deal will be struck Friday on Russia's entry terms into the World Trade Organization.

Russia began trying to join the WTO in 1993 and is the biggest economy still outside the 147 nation body, which sets rules on international trade.

Russian and European Union officials are also billing the summit as a chance for Russia to symbolically accept the recent EU expansion, in which eight former Soviet satellite states were among 10 countries that joined the organization.