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Moscow Times
June 16, 2009
Crisis and Security Top SCO Summit Agenda
By Nabi Abdullaev / The Moscow Times

President Dmitry Medvedev led closed-door talks on the financial crisis and regional security with the leaders of China and Central Asia at the start of a two-day summit Monday that underlined Russia's drive for more clout in global affairs.

In his opening remarks in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, Medvedev congratulated participants of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization on the eighth anniversary of the group's creation and then invited them to hold an off-the-record discussion on the crisis and security.

Also high on the agenda were Afghanistan, where the United States is shifting the focus in its struggle against terror from Iraq, and North Korea, which held a nuclear test last month defying protests from the international community, Russian officials said.

The SCO comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. India, Pakistan, Mongolia and Iran have observer status. Afghanistan's president is also attending the summit.

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, newly re-elected in a disputed vote on Friday, delayed his arrival by one day without explanation. He is expected to fly to Yekaterinburg on Tuesday and meet with Medvedev for one-on-one talks Wednesday.

The leaders of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are scheduled to have talks on Tuesday that may break the ice between the two countries that formed after last year's attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai by terrorists who were trained on Pakistani territory.

Medvedev met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan leader Khamid Karzai on Monday, first separately and then as a trio.

Zardari said in an interview published Monday in Kommersant that he would seek membership for Pakistan in the SCO. Pakistan applied for full membership in the alliance in 2001, but Russia and its Central Asian neighbors opposed it, citing the country's poor track record on fighting terrorism.

Iran has also been seeking full membership in the SCO, but Moscow and Beijing have refused to support the bid.

At this week's summit, the SCO leaders are expected to grant partner status to Sri Lanka and Belarus, Medvedev's foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko told Interfax on Monday.

Prikhodko stressed that the decision on Belarus could be made in the absence of any Belarussian representatives, who are skipping the summit after Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko snubbed a Moscow meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization on Sunday. Minsk has accused Moscow of waging a trade war by banning most of its dairy products.

Prikhodko said SCO leaders would discuss ways to increase cooperation with the United States in the transit of nonlethal military equipment to Afghanistan and measures to curb terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime from Afghanistan.

Russia has sent mixed signals about the U.S.-led campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, with senior officials taking turns approving and criticizing it. Russia has agreed to allow NATO to transit nonmilitary supplies over its territory, but its ally Kyrgyzstan is closing a U.S. air base on its territory after getting $2 billion in aid from Moscow.

Prikhodko said summit participants would sign a declaration Tuesday that stresses the irrevocability of the world's drift toward multipolarity and the importance of a regional view in solving global problems.

On Tuesday evening, Medvedev will open the first-ever summit of the BRIC countries, which are comprised of Brazil, Russia, India and China.