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Blair wants 'frank' talk with Putin at G8 summit

British prime minister is determined to talk to Putin on a proposed US missile shield and a murdered former Russian agent.

world Updated: Jun 08, 2007 11:51 IST

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday he would use the G8 summit for some straight talking with Russia President Vladimir Putin on a proposed US missile shield and a murdered former Russian agent.

Putin's threat to target Russia's missiles on Europe for the first time since the Cold War in response to Us plans to site parts of a planned missile defence system in Eastern Europe could hijack the gathering of Group of Eight leaders in Germany.

"The truth of the matter is for all sorts of reasons it is not something that is really about Russia at all and yet suddenly it is put up by Russia in this way in quite a confrontational way," he told BBC radio.

"I think the sensible thing -- and this is what I will do when I meet President Putin -- is just to have a frank conversation about the state of the relationship between not simply Britain but Europe and Russia," he added.

He also said he would raise the subject of Britain's demand for the extradition of Russian Andrei Lugovoy whom Britain suspects of murdering Russian ex-agent Alexander Litvinenko in London with radioactive Polonium 210 last November.

Putin has rejected that demand as "foolish".

"We know what issues the Russians have there. But we can't have somebody murdered on British soil in that way and nothing happens. So it is a discussion we will have to have," Blair said.

The leaders of the G8 as well as South Africa, Mexico, China, India and Brazil meet in the north German resort of Heiligendamm from Wednesday with topics from climate change to foreign exchange and Africa on the agenda.

Until Putin's warning, the global warming crisis was set to be the scene for the biggest confrontation, with the United States rejecting G8 president Germany's proposals for strict targets and timetables to cut carbon emissions.

Blair said Putin, who has raised European hackles with Russia's increasingly assertive use of its massive gas supplies to gain political leverage, had to consider the longer-term consequences of his actions.

"What will happen is not that there is some great confrontation, it is just ... that in the end people will start making their calculations, constructing their policy on the basis that there is a difficulty in the Russian relationship.

"I don't think in the end it will be in the long term interests of Russia to have a relationship with Europe or with the Western world that is scratchy and difficult," Blair said.

First Published: Jun 06, 2007 14:33 IST