July 6, 2006

G8 to back Russia on anti-terror role for business

By Christian Lowe and Mark Trevelyan

MOSCOW/BERLIN (Reuters) - Group of Eight leaders meeting in
Russia this month will back a proposal by Moscow to get
business more actively involved in the fight against terrorism,
European diplomats say.

But the call will be couched in vague language after a
tricky negotiation process reflecting the gulf between the
Kremlin's domineering relationship with Russian businesses and
the hands-off approach of its G8 partners.

"You and we are natural partners in the fight against
terrorism and today we would like to look at how we can
maximize our joint capabilities more effectively and with
greater coordination," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told
Russian businesses last month.

But Russia's vision -- what Kremlin security official
Anatoly Safonov calls "a union of the state and the business
community in the fight against terrorism" -- sounds
uncomfortably interventionist to some Western ears.

Safonov himself acknowledged at a seminar in April:
"Business is very sensitive -- we particularly felt this in
contacts with our Western colleagues -- about any obligations,
about having their obligations regulated."

Reflecting Western unease, an initial Russian draft
proposal has been heavily reworked in the run-up to the summit
because other countries balked at Moscow's ideas on prescribing
a role for the media, a European G8 diplomat said.

"The Russians originally wanted some sort of self-control
undertaking by the media business to report on terrorism issues
in a certain way, or desist from reporting on terrorism issues
in ways which would be contrary to counter-terrorism purposes,"
he said. "I think he (Safonov) has understood he's not going to
get anything to do with media" into the summit agreement."


What will remain, diplomats said, is a general statement on
the need for public-private partnerships in counter-terrorism,
to be followed up at a Moscow conference on November 27-29 to
which Russia hopes to attract leading Western companies.

"We will give a positive answer to this call from Russia,"
said a second European G8 official, referring to the conference
idea which he said could produce some "interesting
developments" and also enjoyed U.S. backing.

"Washington considers this another frontier for the G8 to
extend cooperation against terrorism. It would be a way to show
the Russians how cooperation with the private sector could have
great potential in the future. If you think of the growth of
Gazprom and other companies in the energy sector, cooperation
like this has great potential."

Safonov has mentioned General Electric and Royal Dutch
Shell among companies that Moscow has been talking to. Both
companies are seeking new business opportunities in Russia.

A spokesman for Shell's Russian operations said he had no
information about the G8 initiative. General Electric's office
in Moscow did not provide any comment.

Among potentially contentious issues between governments
and businesses are how to share out the costs of protecting key
infrastructure and whether the state should step in to bail out
companies or entire sectors after a terrorist attack.

Russia's Safonov argues businesses are at risk from
terrorism and are beneficiaries of government security measures
so they should pitch in to help with the cost.

Safonov and others involved in the Russian proposal have
said examples might include shipping businesses helping pay for
port security, or businesses investing in deprived regions that
are recruiting grounds for terrorists.

Russian officials acknowledge they have had to compromise
on their initial draft proposals but hold fast to their idea of
a state-business partnership. And they are keen to reassure
companies that they need not fear this approach.

"No one intends to force business to do anything," Foreign
Minister Lavrov said. "We want to sense how much common
interest there is and on that basis agree joint plans."

(Additional reporting by Caroline Drees, Tom Miles and
Dmitry Solovyov)

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