Putin To Snub Chirac At G8 Summit

NAGO, Japan,, Jul 21, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) G8 new boy President Vladimir Putin will snub Jacques Chirac during the summit of leading world powers here, meeting all his counterparts save the French leader.

The Russian leader, attending his first Group of Eight summit, has been angered by French criticism of Moscow's nine-month crackdown in the rebel republic of Chechnya, and persistent moves by Paris to raise the issue at international meetings.

Ties have been further strained by a French court decision to freeze Paris bank accounts of the Russian embassy, trade delegation and UNESCO representatives.

Relations plumbed new depths when legal authorities impounded a Russian sailing ship on the request of Swiss trading firm Noga, which is seeking repayment of Russian state debts.

"Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) is going to meet everybody except Chirac" during the three-day meeting, a senior Kremlin official said.

A private meeting between the two men had never been planned, the official said, but hinted that the snub was connected to the current dip in relations.

"You're very clever people, work it out for yourselves," the official said, repeating a phrase which has become the stock reply by Kremlin officials to questions about the reasons for the cold shoulder tactics.

Russian officials said that Putin would meet US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder early Saturday.

Further meetings are planned with host Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and European Commission President Romano Prodi.

However, French officials denied there was any snub, saying "there are no bilateral meetings in Chirac's program -- with Putin or anybody else."

The French official added that France wanted to discuss the situation in Russia during the leaders' dinner late Friday.

Since his election as Russian president in March, Putin has toured all major Western European capitals but has given Paris a wide berth.

The G8 summit gets underway later Friday in the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. 
((c) 2000 Agence France Presse)


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