Saturday, June 19, 1999 Published at 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Business: The Economy
G8 talks focus on ailing Russia
G8 leaders are keen to pull Russia's economy out of the doldrums
With a settlement now agreed on Russia's role in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation, world leaders meeting in Cologne are discussing how to provide financial aid to the embattled Russian economy.
The summit of the world's seven most industrialised nations, plus Russia, is being seen as a chance for western powers to patch up relations with Moscow damaged by Nato's campaign against Yugoslavia.
Russia is hoping that the summit of the so-called G7 economies will produce billions of dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pay the debts owed to Western banks.
World leaders are also hoping to bolster Russia's so-far shaky integration with the world economy and support efforts at reform.
Russia's new Prime Minister, Sergei Stepashin, is attending the talks, sitting in for President Yeltsin who arrives on Sunday.
G7 leaders are likely to emphasise that they are not in the business of giving handouts to Russia. But the summit is expected to adopt a plan for continuing long-term economic support, primarily transfers of expertise and baking for continued reform.
Pressure to act
Mr Stepashin has said he is confident of striking a deal on around $69bn of debt from the Soviet era which Russia says is an unfair burden on its economy.
"We more or less successfully are coming to a conclusion on the issue of Soviet debt," he told reporters after a breakfast meeting with Germany's Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder.
Keen to co-operate
He told his colleagues that President Yeltsin was looking forward to his arrival and was emphasising co-operation within the G8 - the G7 countries plus Russia.
"This summit gives us the chance to put our differences behind us and map out a set of common interests for the future," UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the BBC.
On Friday the G7 leaders agreed on a further reduction of the debts owed by the poorest countries.
The burden will be cut by about $70bn in what President Clinton has said is an historic step to help them achieve growth and independence.
However, debt campaigners say most poor countries will still pay more on servicing their debts than on health and education.
The Jubilee 2000 campaign is organising tens of thousands of people in a human chain around the G8 summit here; they want all the debts cancelled.
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