Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bush blocks Russia’s WTO entry

July 16, 2006


— In a chilly summit prelude, President Bush blocked Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization on Saturday, and President Vladimir Putin mockingly said Moscow doesn't want the kind of violence-plagued democracy the United States has fostered in Iraq.

The two leaders met for two hours before the opening of the annual summit of eight major world powers.

There was a quick handshake but little warmth between Bush and Putin during a photo opportunity opening their talks. For the second day, Bush spent part of it mountain biking.

Despite the sparring, there was none of the tension and anger that crackled in Bratislava, Slovakia, 17 months ago when Bush challenged Putin over Russia's crackdown on dissent and retreat from democracy and the Russian president slapped back. After that jarring meeting, Bush concluded that lecturing Putin in public was unproductive. Still, Bush said he offered Putin some suggestions.

"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion," Bush said at the news conference, "and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same thing."

Putin, in a barbed reply, said, "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly." Bush's face reddened as he tried to laugh off the remark. "Just wait," Bush replied about Iraq.

Putin also said Russia would not take part "in any crusades, in any holy alliances" - a remark seemingly intended to win points with Arab allies. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said he was perplexed by the comment.

Hosting the Group of Eight summit for the first time, Putin dearly wanted to win approval for Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization, the 149-nation group that sets the rules for world trade. The United States is the only country that has not signed off on Russia's membership in the WTO, and Bush dashed Putin's hopes for getting in now.

"We're tough negotiators," Bush said, adding that any agreement would have to be acceptable to the U.S. Congress.


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