US ready to mute criticism of Russia if cooperation on Iran: report

MOSCOW, June 30, 2006 (AFP) – A meeting of G8 foreign ministers this week showed that the United States is ready to mute its criticism of Moscow on questions of democracy in exchange for Russian support on the Iranian nuclear issue, a leading broadsheet said Friday.

"The United States is ready not to note Russian problems in exchange for support on the Iran question," the Kommersant daily said.

The newspaper noted that complaints about human rights and state control over the media in Russia got relatively little attention in the closing comments of the Group of Eight ministers who met in Moscow on Thursday to prepare for a G8 summit on July 15-17.

The visiting foreign ministers "conceded all the demands of Russia and" in their closing declaration "kept to a minimum mention … of questions that in some way bother Russia," the newspaper said.

Thursday’s meeting followed pressure from leading US lawmakers for President George W. Bush to take a tough stand on Russian democracy at next month’s summit, the first to be hosted by Russia.

There had been no discussion, Kommersant said, of the so-called "frozen conflicts" in two ex-Soviet states, Georgia and Moldova, or the situation in Belarus, which is a close ally of Russia’s.

But Washington’s demands for support on the Iranian nuclear standoff might prove hard for Moscow to stomach, the paper said.

Moscow remains an ally of Tehran and has called for a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme, which Iran says is peaceful but the United States suspects is a front for developing nuclear weapons.

"In the Kremlin they think Washington is asking too much, not offering anything in exchange. This situation offends and annoys the Russian leadership… The utterances of senior Russian officials have more and more taken on a highly emotional tone," Kommersant said.