Obama to meet Medvedev, Kan and Sarkozy at G8

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US President Barack Obama will hold one-on-one talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan and French leader Nicolas Sarkozy at next week's G8 summit in France.

Obama, who will also visit Ireland, Britain and Poland next week on a major European tour, which will include the G8 developed nations summit in the French seaside resort of Deauville.

The White House said his meeting with Medvedev comes in the context of the "reset" of relations with Moscow engineered by the Obama administration, which both sides say has yielded important results.

But there are still signs of lingering tension. Washington said Wednesday that its plans to build a missile defense shield in ex-communist Europe are not directed at Russia, after the Kremlin warned of a new Cold War over the issue.

Russia is increasingly worried about US plans to build missile defense facilities in eastern Europe and is also offended that NATO appears to have shunned its proposals for a joint missile shield.

Medvedev told reporters that the US decision to push ahead with construction of the missile defense system despite Russia's objections will force Moscow "to take retaliatory measures -- something that we would very much rather not do."

Ben Rhodes, a US deputy national security advisor told reporters on Friday that the US relationship with Russia had been one of the most productive foreign policy initiatives of the Obama administration.

He noted the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the two sides, cooperation on Afghanistan supply routes and common efforts to combat nuclear proliferation.

"We have a broad agenda with the Russians, the President has a very close working relationship with President Medvedev, so we see this as an important meeting to advance the agenda between our two countries," Rhodes said.

With Kan, Obama will discuss US cooperation Japan, following the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami -- which left nearly 25,000 dead or missing and sparked the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

"Japan has come through a very difficult period. The US has provided substantial support for our Japanese ally," Rhodes said.

On May 27, before leaving France for Poland, Obama will have a bilateral meeting with summit host Sarkozy, Rhodes said.

"We obviously coordinate very closely with France on the full range of issues before us, including our efforts in Afghanistan and Libya," he said.

"Similarly, there's a great interest in coordination with regards to the events in the Middle East and North Africa."

The G8 groups France, Germany, Italy, Britain, the United States, Japan, Canada and Russia.

© 2011 AFP

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