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UK and Russia to form closer ties

by Jane Wardell
| June 25, 2010 3:08 PM

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged Friday to improve the recently strained relationship between their two countries after meeting for the first time.

"We agreed that our bilateral relations required personal attention of the leaders ... both in terms of economic and other issues, and we are determined to make them more productive and more intense," Medvedev said through an interpreter after the pair talked on the sidelines of the G-8 summit.

Britain and Russia have had a troubled relationship in recent years amid controversy over issues including the fatal poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and the enforced exile of executives in British oil company BP PLC's Russian joint venture.

Cameron, who took office last month as head of a coalition government, said there was a "real opportunity to put the bilateral relationship on a new footing to try to make a stronger start and work through the issues where we have agreement and those where we still have things to work through."

The warm tone following the meeting of the two leaders is a positive sign for Russia as it bids to join the World Trade Organization, an issue that could come up at the G-20 summit, which begins in Toronto on Saturday.

The U.S. and Russia vowed to "reset" relations after the Obama administration took power last year and President Barack Obama voiced strong support for the WTO bid on Thursday after a meeting in Washington with Medvedev.

Obama pledged to help Russia speed up its more than decade-long bid in hopes that Moscow could win acceptance as early as Sept. 30.

Cameron's spokesman Steve Field said before the meeting that Cameron wouldn't shy away from discussing difficult issues with Medvedev, but added he would take a "positive approach."

Separately, Cameron also welcomed a U.S. breakthrough on tough new financial regulations but is sticking to his guns on Britain's own plans to sharply curtail spending _ despite Obama's plea for continued economic stimulus.

A spokesman for the British leader said that "like the U.S., the U.K. is taking serious steps" to reform its financial system. Cameron's government this week unveiled an emergency budget that included higher taxes and the toughest cuts in public spending in decades.

The spokesman spoke to The Associated Press at an economic summit in Canada. He spoke on condition of anonymity as the matter had not yet been formally discussed.

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