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Putin urged to ratify Kyoto pact

Britain's Princess Michael of Kent chats with Putin at the Guildhall in London Wednesday.
Britain's Princess Michael of Kent chats with Putin at the Guildhall in London Wednesday.

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Gallery: Putin in London 
start quoteWe support your efforts to create a modern, prosperous and dynamic state.end quote
-- Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON, England -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is being urged to ratify the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions as he opens a high-level energy conference in London.

Environmentalists say a $6 billion joint venture between British and Russian oil companies -- agreed on Thursday -- will be disastrous for the planet unless the Kyoto pact is in place.

Much of the agenda for Thursday's conference concerned the exploition of Russia's huge gas reserves, with British oil company BP signing the deal to buy 50 percent of Russia's TNK oil firm and discussions about a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany and possibly Britain.

The agreement to create the third-biggest oil and gas company means Britain is now the leading investor in Russia.

But environmental group Friends of the Earth pointed out that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had called for a "concerted international effort" to fight climate change and called on him to put pressure on Putin during his state visit to the UK.

"Without (the Kyoto) international climate change agreement in place there should be no deals between the UK and Russia to exploit its fossil fuel reserves," FoE spokesman Bryony Worthington told the Press Association.

The protocol, brokered by the United Nations in 1997 but not incorporated into law by Russia or the United States, sets a legally binding target on nations to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide that most scientists believe cause extreme weather patterns.

Continuing the first state visit by a Russian leader to Britain in more than 125 years, Putin held talks with Blair later Thursday during which the leaders were set to discuss concerns over Iran's nuclear program and the aftermath of the war in Iraq.

The issue of Iran's nuclear program was expected to be high on the agenda, the Press Association reported, amid Western concern that Tehran's civil power facilities, built with Moscow's help, could conceal a weapons program.

Blair was set to warn Putin that material supplied by Russia could be diverted for military purposes, PA said. The Russians insist though they are complying with United Nations rules on the export of nuclear-related materials.

On Wednesday, Putin and his wife toured Scotland before returning to London for a banquet at which he told business leaders Russia had been following far-reaching reforms to make the country more democratic and business-orientated.

"Today we are a more attractive partner for Europe and for the whole world. We are creating better conditions for business for the benefit of investors," he said.

On Tuesday Queen Elizabeth II sought to heal wounds from the war on Iraq, which Britain supported and Russia opposed. (Full story)

In her official welcoming speech at Buckingham Palace, the queen said: "It is no secret that there were significant differences between our two countries earlier this year on how best to handle Iraq.

"But as we look ahead, we know that our long-term partnership is of profound importance to both of us," she said.

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