Heiligendamm, Germany (AFP) Jun 07, 2007
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday offered to set up a joint Russian-US anti-missile base to end a crisis between the two countries as Group of Eight leaders agreed a face-saving compromise on climate change. Putin made the startling proposal for a joint base in Azerbaijan during talks with US President George W. Bush aimed at rescuing bilateral relations from a post-Cold War low.
The two met on the sidelines of the G8 summit in the German resort of Heiligendamm where police arrested another 305 demonstrators and police vessels chased two Greenpeace boats that entered a maritime exclusion zone around the summit venue.
Russia angrily opposes a US proposal to set up a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and Putin had threatened to aim Russian weapons at European targets if the US system was deployed.
Russia says it is the target of the shield. The United States insists the system is to guard against an attack by Iran or North Korea.
Putin said he spoke Wednesday to the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, who had agreed that the Gabalin base there could be jointly used by Russia and the United States.
Bush's national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, said Bush had found the proposal "interesting" and wanted it referred to experts.
Outlining the plan with Bush at his side, Putin said: "We have an understanding of common threats but there are differences over the means for overcoming these threats."
The Russian leader said the US and Russian military would detect any long-range missile test by Iran and would then have up to five years to set up a joint base before there was any major threat.
He argued that the Azerbaijan-based system would cover all of Europe rather than just parts of it and that any missile debris would fall in the ocean rather than on land in Europe.
Bush told journalists that the two leaders would pursue their "strategic dialogue," at talks in the United States in early July.
"This is a serious issue," he commented.
Putin said locating the base in Azerbaijan would ease Russian concerns about a missile shield on its frontier in Europe.
"This will make it unnecessary for us to place our offensive complexes along the border with Europe," Putin said.
But Putin warned the United States not to go ahead with building the system in Europe while negotiations with Moscow take place.
G8 leaders meanwhile agreed to pursue major cuts to dangerous greenhouse gas pollution and seriously consider the goal of halving global emissions by 2050.
Summit host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said she was "very, very satisfied" with the agreement but acknowledged that the accord was a compromise that fell short of her hopes for a binding deal.
She said the accord gave impetus to negotiations beginning in Bali, Indonesia in December to find a successor to the UN-backed Kyoto Protocol on capping carbon emissions that expires in 2012.
"The very best we could achieve has been achieved," Merkel said. But environmental groups dismissed the pledge as hollow and blamed the United States for blocking mandatory limits on emissions.
The final text laid out the goal of "strong and early action" to stop global greenhouse gas emissions from rising.
This would be "followed by substantial global emissions reductions."
"In setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050," the text said.
"We commit to achieving these goals and invite the major emerging economies to join us in this endeavour."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the pledge as a "major, major step forward."
"The possibility is here therefore, for the first time, of getting a global deal on climate change with substantial cuts on emissions, with everyone in the deal, which is the only way that we're going to get the radical action on the climate that we need," he said.
Kosovo was also discussed at the summit and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a six month pause in international moves for the disputed Albanian province to become independent.
Meanwhile, protesters launched a two-pronged land and sea assault on the summit on Thursday and police fired water cannon and arrested 300 demonstrators.
Boats from Greenpeace entered a maritime exclusion zone around the gathering of rich nation leaders while anti-globalisation protesters on land tried to block roads around the summit venue.
About 100 protesters were arrested as they staged a sit-in on one road while 200 were taken into custody after police dragged protesters off another road and away from the security barrier near the summit venue.
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A Coalition Of Rogues Could Dent The Shield
Washington (UPI) June 06, 2007
If U.S. President George W. Bush follows through with his controversial plan to set up a defensive missile shield in two former Warsaw Pact countries, years from now historians will be asking which came first: the missile shield to protect Western allies from rogue states, or a coalition of rogue states assembled by Russia to counter the missile shield proposed by the United States?
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