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PUTIN SEEKS G8 DEBT RELIEF FOR EX-SOVIET REPUBLICS


(AFP) June 13 - President Vladimir Putin called Monday for reduction of international debt owed by the poorest of the former Soviet republics and signalled Russia would put the issue on the Group of Eight agenda when it assumes the G8 chairmanship next year.

"For Britain, it is quite important to know the situation in the African countries," Putin said at a news conference following talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair who is touring member countries ahead of a G8 summit in Scotland in July.

"It is equally important for us to address the situation" in the ex-Soviet republics that make up the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Putin said, adding: "Hopefully next year we will be able to impartially assess the situation in these countries with our
colleagues."

The Russian leader admitted that relations between Moscow and a number of the former Soviet republics it once dominated were not always "easy-going," but said these countries nonetheless "want our support and the support of the international community."

Several -- specifically Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, Georgia in the Caucasus and Moldova which is sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania -- objectively qualify as heavily indebted developing countries in most urgent need of help from international lenders, he said.

"We need not turn these CIS states into a battlefield. Rather we should transport this space into a space of cooperation and we need to do our best to provide assistance to these countries in developing democracy and enhancing their economic basis."

The International Monetary Fund, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other international lending institutions have focused in recent years on poverty and debt control in ex-Soviet republics through an initiative launched in
2002 known as the CIS-7.

The countries that are the object of the plan are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
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