Russians say their country should aim for full G8 membership

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MOSCOW, July 4 (RIA Novosti) - A poll released Monday by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) showed that a majority of Russians favor their country becoming a full member of the G8.

The poll put the percentage of those in favor at 58%, up from 51% earlier this year. Only 14% of respondents were opposed to full membership, while 28% found it difficult to give an answer.

A quarter of respondents said Russia was a full member already. However, 40% did not, while the other 35% could not assess Russia's role in the informal organization.

Experts said the number of those who said Russia was a full G8 member and had to consolidate its position was growing among younger respondents and those with higher incomes.

Respondents said that Russia should focus during its G8 chairmanship next year on addressing immediate threats, above all international terrorism (54%). Moscow residents in particular backed this (72%).

Environmental protection is the second most important issue Russia should focus on when it chairs the organization, with 32% of respondents, ahead of combating epidemics (23%), and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (21%). Eighteen percent of those polled said promoting economic and democratic development in the former Soviet republics should be the central issue on Russia's 2006 agenda.

The survey showed that the G8's initiative to write off the debts of poor nation was not very popular. Twenty-six percent of respondents wanted Russia to join the initiative, while 54% were opposed. Middle- and low-income respondents were largely opposed to the idea (21%-26% welcomed the idea and 55% were against), while respondents who described their material standing as "decent" split into 43% for and 41% against.

The survey, carried out on June 25-26, questioned 1,594 people.

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