UK opposition leader questions Russia's fitness for G8


  • World
  • Sunday, 17 Aug 2008

MYT 2:17:01 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - British opposition leader David Cameron called into question Russian membership of the Group of Eight on Saturday, saying Moscow's actions in Georgia were incompatible with belonging to the rich nations' club.

"I don't think that a country that behaves in the way Russia has, with tanks rolling across the streets of democratic countries -- that sort of behaviour is not compatible with being a member of the G8," Cameron told the BBC from Tbilisi, where he held talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

David Cameron, leader of Britain's Conservative Party, smiles as he arrives for a news conference in central London August 12, 2008. Cameron called into question Russian membership of the Group of Eight on Saturday, saying Moscow's actions in Georgia were incompatible with belonging to the rich nations' club. (REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Some analysts have said the West may try to punish Russia for sending its forces into Georgia by suspending it from the G8, which brings together Russia and the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrial nations to discuss global issues.

G7 foreign ministers have pointedly held several telephone conference calls without Russia since the crisis over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia erupted last week.

Georgia sent a force to try to retake the Russian-backed province, provoking a counter-attack by Moscow. Its troops continue to occupy part of Georgia, even though both sides have signed a peace deal.

Cameron, whose Conservatives comfortably lead British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party in opinion polls, said Russia should realise that its actions in Georgia would have long-term consequences for its relations with the West.

"Russia ... keeps saying she wants to be a full member of the international community, and part of the G8 and part of the World Trade Organisation, and have a strong relationship with the EU (European Union).

"If she behaves like this, she will have none of those things," Cameron said, urging the British government to look at visa rules for Russians.

His call came as Britain's biggest-selling daily newspaper, The Sun, criticised Brown's low profile on the Georgia crisis.

"Where on earth are Gordon Brown and his Foreign Secretary David Miliband?" it asked in an editorial. "The government has been made to look weak."

Brown is holidaying in Scotland after a bruising year as prime minister which has seen his popularity plummet.

He has said little in public about the situation in Georgia, although he has conducted some telephone diplomacy and issued statements calling Russia's incursion unjustified.

Miliband, who plans to visit Georgia next week, said on Saturday that Russian "aggression" against Georgia and threats to neighbouring states, such as Poland, were unacceptable.

Relations between Moscow and London soured after the November 2006 poisoning in London of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB security officer turned Kremlin critic. Russia refused to extradite the man Britain named as chief suspect, arguing that its constitution forbade it.

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