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On eve of summit, G-8 leaders hope to jump-start trade talks

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Group of Eight leaders appear intent on going beyond their marquee agenda items of energy security, infectious diseases, and education to push for a breakthrough on long-stalled talks aimed at reducing trade barriers to poor countries.

Also, President Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia are expected to announce today a global initiative to track potential nuclear terrorists, seize materials used to make bombs, and coordinate responses if terrorists get hold of such weapons, The New York Times reported in today's editions, quoting administration officials who have negotiated the deal.

Within months, the officials told the Times, they expect China, Japan, the major European powers, Kazakhstan, and Australia to create a bloc of nations under a global initiative to combat nuclear terrorism.

On the trade issue, Putin sent a clear signal yesterday that he was looking for progress when he answered a question about Russia's feelings about chairing this year's G-8 summit, which opens today.

Wealthy countries ``must remove barriers for the inflow of goods of traditional production . . . but also stop full-scale subsidizing of their exports on the state level," Putin said, referring to the import tariffs and agricultural supports that jack up prices and prevent poorer countries from getting a foothold in the global economy.

Putin is not the only leader calling for the World Trade Organization's five-year-old trade liberalization talks to be accelerated in the run-up to the summit.

The negotiations are aimed at boosting the global economy and lifting millions out of poverty worldwide by lowering commercial barriers across all sectors.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain said this week that it would be ``extremely important" to restart the talks at the summit. Although a deal is unlikely during the meeting, informal meetings Monday would give leaders a chance to discuss possible solutions, a top Blair adviser said.

WTO head Pascal Lamy is scheduled to meet with the G-8 chiefs and leaders of five developing countries at Monday's session.

The leaders are gathering at the ornate Konstantin Palace for three days of talks.

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