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Russia's Putin, tycoons heading to Australia

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Sept 3, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country's most prominent tycoons are set to fly to Australia on Friday amid speculation that Canberra is poised to sign a deal to sell uranium to Moscow.

Media reports said a uranium deal could be signed Friday, when the Russian leader makes a one-day official visit before taking part in the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit on September 8-9.

Vasily Dobrovolsky, Russia's ambassador to APEC, declined to comment on the highlights of the official visit, saying only that "it will be quite a landmark in the relationship" between Moscow and Canberra.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last month that the world's top uranium miner is close to signing a deal to supply uranium to Russia for civilian purposes and that this could be completed in September.

Canberra concluded a similar in-principle deal with India last month. Both proposals have been widely criticised.

An agreement struck in 1990 allows Australian uranium to be processed in Russia but if it is then sold on, it must be to other countries which Canberra accepts.

Unlike India, however, Russia is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NFT) and is one of the five nuclear powers recognised by that agreement.

Downer has discounted the possibility of the uranium being sold on to other countries, such as Iran, without Australia's knowledge.

Dobrovolsky said the Russian delegation of more than 200 to the APEC meetings would be second only in size to the United States and would include "most of our business oligarchs -- nearly all of them are coming here."

He said this was part of Moscow's efforts to obtain closer trade links with booming Asian economies, which he said could benefit from energy and mineral supplies from the Russian Far East.

"We hope that after the APEC summit we will be a more active member than before," he said, adding that Putin expects to secure a consensus to hold the annual APEC summit in the Russian Far East, probably in Vladivostok, in 2012.

Russia is the only member of APEC that is not also a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"There is no problem with the US," over Russian accession, "but more about other members having some new problems over the negotiations," he said without elaborating.

US officials previously made intellectual piracy a key issue in talks over Russia's joining the WTO.

related report
Russian long-range bombers carry out Arctic exercises
Moscow (AFP) Sept 3 - Twelve Russian strategic bomber planes were to take part in a two-day exercise over the north of the country that began Monday and was to include the firing of cruise missiles, the air force said.

The Tu-95MC bombers are carrying out "tactical" exercises in the north of Russia including the Arctic Circle and will conduct "tactical launches of cruise missiles," the air force said in a statement.

The exercises involved five aerodromes across Russia ranging from the Engels air base in the southwestern province of Saratov to Anadyr airport in the north-eastern province of Chukotka, located on the Bering Straits near the United States.

"Questions of mid-air refuelling" will also be resolved, the statement said.

Last month President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was permanently resuming the Soviet-era practice of long-range bomber patrols far from Russian territory.

The announcement added to tensions between Russia and the United States related to Washington's plans to place anti-missile defence facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland, countries that were ruled from Moscow during the Cold War but are now members of NATO.

Russia halted strategic flights by its air force in 1992 due to lack of funding.

Source: Agence France-Presse
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Russia draws 'red line' on Kosovo, US missile defence
Moscow (AFP) Sept 3, 2007
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underlined Russia's increasingly muscular foreign policy Monday, laying out a series of non-negotiable "red line" issues including Kosovo and US missile defence.

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