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Energy fears dominate Russia's G8 meet

The upcoming talks are expected to be dominated by international tensions over high energy prices and tightening supplies.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2006 11:01 IST

Russia hosts the world's most powerful finance chiefs from the Group of Eight (G8) nations this week in talks expected to be dominated by international tensions over high energy prices and tightening supplies.

Finance ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States will gather on Friday and Saturday in Saint Petersburg for talks that will also lay the groundwork for the G8 summit to be hosted there by President Vladimir Putin in five weeks time.

Energy supplies are expected to be the hot-button issue, although measures against financing of terrorism, the fight against infectious diseases, debt relief to developing countries and cheap medicine for Africa are other potential agenda items.

"The question of energy security will be addressed," Russia's Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told journalists on Tuesday.

"Work is going full ahead on the issue of energy poverty."

A global energy squeeze, worsened by war in Iraq and international tension over Iran, has pushed oil prices to records of over 70 dollars a barrel.

Russia -- the world's second-biggest oil producer after Saudi Arabia and the leading source of natural gas -- sees a chance to re-emerge from almost 15 years of post-Soviet turmoil as a new energy superpower.

Energy also gives Moscow ammunition against critics who say Russia is too underdeveloped economically to be in the G8 -- a point highlighted by the decision in Saint Petersburg to cancel the usual discussions at G8 finance meetings between central bank chiefs.