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The G-7 Summit: Russia's Involvement Grows

Prague, June 21 (RFE/RL) - The summit of the G-7 group of major industrial democracies, to start next Thursday in Lyon, France, will include a new special session on global challenges like organized crime, terrorism, environmental issues and the spread of diseases.

The U.S. deputy assistant to the president for economic policy, Daniel Tarullo, says that such old problems have new prominence since the end of the Cold War. He says the leaders of the G-7 nations want to devote a special session, with Russia present, to serve as a catalyst for international action.

Tarullo says Russia's role continues to grow steadily in these summits. Still, though, there is no plan to expand the full summit to a G-8. Officials of several of these governments point out that Russia is economically still not in the major industrial league.

Tarullo is senior aid to U.S. President Bill Clinton for the annual G-7 summit. He told reporters at the White House yesterday: "These are issues which know no boundaries. They are not domestic problems. They're not foreign policy problems. They are problems which cross national borders."

Clinton will join this year's host, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, British Prime Minister John Major, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Cretien, Japanese Prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Italian President Romano Prodi for three full days and evenings of head-to-head economic and political discussions.

They will be joined starting Friday afternoon by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, substituting for President Boris Yeltsin. While the leaders carry on their discussions, the foreign ministers and finance ministers of the seven and then eight nations will meet for talks on specific problems within their purvue, frequently joining the heads of state for broader discussions. Chirac has set the agenda to include not only usual discussions on the state of the world economy, but also specific sessions devoted to the challenge of providing jobs, especially in Europe, the need for increased assistance to developing nations, particularly to provide multi-lateral debt relief to overwhelmingly indebted countries.

The French president has also pointed to a need to push ahead with decisions already made on dealing with nuclear safety issues, especially in the former Soviet Union, and the continuing political issues of Bosnia and the Middle East.

French officials say the leaders will decide what further steps need to be taken on nuclear safety. In the words of one French official: "Western nations are worried about the state of nuclear power stations in the former Soviet Union, most of which are considered to be dangerous." However, the financial situation of the countries housing those reactors, particularly Ukraine, is such that outside financial assistance is essential. Ukrainian officials have warned that unless the G-7 acts on its promises of more than1,000 million dollars in assistance to close down the Chernobyl plant, Ukraine will have to keep it running. Chirac also has placed on the agenda a special discussion with institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations. U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Gahli is scheduled to participate, putting him face-to-face with Clinton, probably for the first time since the Clinton Administration announced it would block his reelection as U.N. chief executive. France expects to pursue its suggestion for the creation of a deputy secretary general post.