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Merkel, Medvedev Focus On Business Deals, Human Rights, Iran

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel give a press conference after the plenary session of the German-Russian government talks in Yekaterinburg on July 15.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have met in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg for talks aimed at improving relations between their countries.

Meeting against the backdrop of the St. Petersburg forum -- an annual gathering of Russian and German businessmen and politicians that is now in its 10th year -- the two leaders were overseeing the signing of deals between German and Russian companies worth billions of dollars.

Merkel and Medvedev also were discussing Russia's human rights situation, Russia-EU relations, and international issues such as Iran's nuclear program.

Today's talks come on the first anniversary of the execution-style murder of Natalya Estemirova, a prominent Chechen human rights activist.

Earlier today, Merkel pressed Medvedev about the investigation into the killing of Estemirova.

"It is important that Russia continues to investigate that murder," Merkel told the gathering, adding that it is "necessary that people who infringe human rights should face punishment."


Nongovernmental rights groups like Amnesty International also have raised concerns about whether there is political will in Moscow to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Medvedev responded to that criticism by telling the forum today that Russian investigators have identified Estemirova's killer and have launched an international search for him.

"First, it is wrong to say that there is no investigation. The investigation is under way," Medvedev said. "Second, in such cases there are never quick results unless [the perpetrators are caught] on the spot. Third, the perpetrator of this murder -- the killer -- has been revealed and definitively identified. Fourth, he has been put on an international wanted list. And, in conclusion, fifth, an investigation is taking place to establish not only the perpetrator, but also those who ordered this grave crime."

Medvedev did not specify the identity of the suspect.

Investigators had earlier named only one suspect, Alkhazur Bashayev, a Chechen rebel killed by Russian security forces in November 2009. Rights groups have called the Bashayev events an attempt to whitewash the investigation.

Tough Talk For Iran

Medvedev warned Iran that it must begin full cooperation with the international community about its nuclear program.

"The information that we get [about Iran's nuclear program], both from official channels and from the reports prepared by the intelligence services, shows that this program is evolving and Iran has to find enough courage to start full-fledged cooperation with the international community, even if Iran faces questions that it doesn't like," the Russian leader insisted.

Medvedev also said Tehran should not expect Russia to turn a blind eye toward violations of Iran's obligations under the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) -- nor the fact that there are military components to Iran's nuclear program.

"I have said many times that Iran is our relatively active and historically proven trade partner," Medvedev said. "But this doesn't mean that we are indifferent to the way Iran develops its nuclear program, and we are not indifferent to the military components of this program. In this aspect, we expect the appropriate explanation from Iran."

compiled from agency reports