MOSCOW, March 1: President Vladimir Putin today called for efforts to reduce instability in world energy markets as he set out the agenda for Russia's presidency this year of the Group of Eight industrialised nations.
Putin will host US President George W Bush and other G8 leaders at a summit in his home town of St Petersburg in July to crown Russia's first stint chairing the rich nations' group.
Keen to underline Russia's role as an energy superpower, Putin said in an article published today that he wanted energy security to take centre stage at the meeting.
''Instability in hydrocarbon markets poses today a real threat to global energy supply,'' Putin said in a 1,700-word article in the Izvestia newspaper.
''The gap between supply and demand is widening.'' Kremlin officials see the G8 presidency as an affirmation of Russian geopolitical clout after the chaos of the 1990s and the fall of the Soviet Union.
Russia took over the rotating presidency of the club, which includes the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Britain and Italy, at the start of the year.
Brushing aside concerns about Moscow's record on democracy, Putin has said critics must accept that Russia, with a booming economy and flush with oil cash, is a dynamic player in the world economy.
One of the world's biggest oil and gas producers, Russia was criticised by other G8 countries early this year when it shut off gas to Ukraine during a row over pricing, disrupting European supplies.
Putin said ''energy egotism was a road to nowhere'' and called for efforts to ensure energy security.
He argued that a stable energy policy had to reflect broad international interests, not just those of wealthy nations.
''We will strive to form a system of energy security which would take into account the interests of the whole world,'' Putin wrote.
At more than 60 dollars a barrel, oil is roughly twice as dear as it was two years ago, though prices are still below record levels hit after the Arab oil embargo, Iranian revolution and Iran-Iraq war in the mid-1970's and early 1980s.
Other items on the G8 2006 agenda fixed by Russia are fighting infectious diseases and education.
Putin said Russia would press for an operational plan to fight avian flu and ''avert a new pandemic of human influenza.''