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    Next G-8 summit to confirm Russia's key position - viewpoint

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    PARIS, December 26 (RIA Novosti, Andrei Nizamutdinov) - The 2006 G-8 summit in St. Petersburg will confirm Russia's position among the world's leading countries, Isabelle Facon, a chief researcher with France's Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique, told RIA Novosti in an interview.

    She said Moscow could take advantage of its G-8 presidency "to improve its international reputation and quiet the anxiety sparked by some of the internal events of the past two years and by Moscow's more closed position on a number of international issues, including the post-Soviet space."

    France is among the G-8 countries that support Russia's integration into the global community and Euro-Atlantic structures, Facon said.

    "France hails Russia's G-8 presidency, which could contribute to the country's consolidation in the community of major powers," she said. Russia "could try to develop its role as a link between Europe and Asia."

    Russia has recently put more effort into playing "the Asian card," in particular by consolidating its contacts with China and India," the researcher said.

    However, "China and India may not know that they are being represented by Russia, whose economic dynamics differ from that of their own and whose Asian ambitions are sometimes accidental," the expert said.

    Facon said it was worth mentioning that unlike a number of previous G-8 chair-countries, Russia was not inviting countries outside the G-8 to the St. Petersburg summit.

    Commenting on the agenda of the summit, the specialist said Moscow's plans to place special emphasis on energy and energy security was not surprising because the two spheres were Russia's political and economic advantage.

    "Russia has been more extensively using the 'energy card' as an instrument for exercising influence and power," Facon said, "and energy resources can serve to balance the Russian economy which lags behind the other G-8 economies."

    According to Facon, more countries are turning to Russia as a way to diversify their energy supplies in light of the instability in the Middle East. But Russia's signals in this direction are not always clear, she added.

    "In its relations with Europe and the United States, Russia has played the role of a stable and safe supplier, whereas it uses the 'energy card' as a tool to pressure the CIS and as leverage in Asia," Facon said.

    "Like other G-8 capitals, Paris hopes Moscow will demonstrate more flexibility given its partners' concerns," she said.

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