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    Putin admits defects in NGO law, pledges improvement

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that a law tightening rules for non-governmental organizations working in the country was flawed and promised it would be reconsidered.

    MOSCOW, July 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that a law tightening rules for non-governmental organizations working in the country was flawed and promised it would be reconsidered.

    The new law, which came into effect in April, set more stringent and complicated financial reporting requirements for NGOs and has been criticized in the West and liberal groups in Russia as being too restrictive. Russian officials argued control over foreign NGOs in western countries was much tougher.

    "I admit that this document has shortcomings," Putin told a Civil-G8 2006 forum of NGOs in Moscow, which is being held ahead of a summit of the world's industrialized nations in St. Petersburg later this month. Russia is presiding over the G8 this year.

    Over 700 people representing prominent rights organizations, including the International Helsinki Group, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Charities Aid Foundation, and others, are attending the NGO forum.

    The NGO law was discussed by a working party of the human rights and legal departments of the Council of Europe, which Russia is presiding over in May-October 2006, in Strasbourg earlier this year following the adoption of the law in late December.

    Putin said he had sent Russia's justice minister to the consultations. He also said that the working party had drafted proposed amendments to the law.

    "I submitted these written proposals in the form of presidential amendments to the document," he said.

    The president also urged NGOs to prepare comments about how the law was being enforced and promised that they would be taken into consideration.

    Foreign NGOs have complained about difficulties in re-registering in Russia after the law came into effect, Russian business daily Vedomosti said in late June.

    The Federal Registration Service said that none of the 40 foreign NGOs that applied for registration after the introduction of the law had managed to complete the process. It said there were between 500 and 2,000 foreign NGOs operating in Russia, and that all of them had to re-register by October 18.

    Sergei Tsyplenkov, the executive director of the Greenpeace office in Russia, said that new regulations were so unclear that they enabled officials to make harsh decisions at their own discretion.

    But the registration service said the new registration procedure was transparent and "purely technical," requiring only that a number of forms be filled out, a task it said foreign NGOs had failed to do.

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