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Saturday, 22 July, 2000, 00:37 GMT 01:37 UK
Russia offered cash to scrap weapons
Tony Blair and Valdimir Putin
Tony Blair has offered Valdimir Putin monetary help
Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced he is offering 70m aid to help Russia destroy chemical weapons and dispose of unneeded plutonium.

Mr Blair told other world leaders at the G8 summit in Okinawa, Japan, that Russia needed help disposing of the substances.

He and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed how Russia can dispose of its stockpile of plutonium and 40,000 chemical weapons.

Mr Blair's announcement made good an offer of help he made to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

"The legacy of the Cold War has left countries of the former Soviet Union with enormous nuclear problems," said Mr Blair.

Blair said Russia needs help disposing of plutonium
"The environmental, security and proliferation threats they pose do not respect international boundaries."

He said this was why the UK was committing money over the next 10 years to plutonium disposition in Russia.

"We are committing 12m over the next three years to assist Russia with the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile," he said.

The scale of Russia's problems mean they can be tackled only by the international community "working together", he said.

"G8 has already offered strong support," he added. "I hope that G8 will maintain its momentum by agreeing a schedule of action on plutonium disposition before next year's summit."

During their talks Mr Blair and Mr Putin also discussed banning the sale of diamonds used to fuel civil wars in Africa, and the problems posed by international criminals trading in drugs and running money-laundering rackets.

US arms pledge

The Russian leader was also in talks with US President Bill Clinton. They focused on arms control and both made a pledge to make cuts in intermediate-range missiles.

It is Mr Putin's first time at the summit with the world's leading industrial nations.

Since 1994 the annual G7 summits have also been attended by Russia, making it the Group of Eight, or G8. But Russia takes part only in the political discussions.

In May this year the UK, US, Russia, China and France all gave an "unequivocal" undertaking to scrap their nuclear arsenals, but set no timetable.

The deal is also dependent on every other nuclear weapon state agreeing to take the same action. They are Israel, Pakistan and Cuba.

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Find out more about the G8 summit in Okinawa

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See also:

21 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair frustration as debt plea fails
16 Apr 00 | Europe
Putin seeks UK 'co-operation'
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: What will the G8 achieve?
20 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's 500m summit bill
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