G8 to back Russia on anti-terror role for business
MOSCOW/BERLIN, July 6 (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 maximise 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.'' WOOING WESTERN COMPANIES 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 Nov. 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.'' REUTERS SK VV1204