Bush to raise democracy issues at G8 summit
US President George W Bush has vowed to raise the issue of democracy and human rights when he meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg this summer.
Bush also dismissed calls yesterday for him to boycott the July summit being hosted for the first time by Russia, as a means of expressing Western concerns about Putin's bid to concentrate power in the Kremlin and his slide away from democracy.
"I think that would be a mistake for the United States not to go to the G8," Bush said in a speech at Freedom House, an independent organization dedicated to promoting democracy around the world.
"Because I need to be in a position where I can sit down with him (Putin) and be very frank about our concerns."
Bush said he has spent much time impressing upon the Russian leader that "he should not fear democracy on his border nor should he fear democracy within his borders."
In explaining different events to Putin, Bush said, "I try to point to historical truths.
"That it's in the interest of a country like Russia to understand and welcome democracy, it's in the interest for the country to give people the freedom to express themselves," he said.
Bush insisted that Washington did not expect Russia to "look like the United States of America" but that it ought to respect basic rights.
"I do think it's important for me to go to the G8 so I can make the case," he said.