- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

POTSDAM, Germany — A meeting of foreign ministers from the world’s leading industrialized countries yesterday was beset by disagreement on several major issues, with the United States sparring with Russia over U.S. plans for missile defense and with Europe over climate change.

Russia, in turn, disagreed with everyone else on the future of Kosovo, the autonomous Serbian province that the West says should be granted independence “supervised” by the international community.

The Group of Eight (G-8) meeting was supposed to prepare next week’s annual summit of heads of state, where leaders usually try to show unity on the world’s most difficult problems, although Russia’s addition to the club in the 1990s has made that goal more difficult to achieve.

The argument yesterday between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in the eastern German city of Potsdam, was rare.

Mr. Lavrov accused Washington of starting a new “arms race” by planning a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe and dismissed Miss Rice’s characterization of Moscow’s objections, which she said Tuesday were “ludicrous.”

“I think that those who are professionally aware of this problem understand that there is nothing ludicrous about this issue because the arms race is starting again,” the minister said at a press conference after the G-8 meeting.

Miss Rice did not hide her frustration, saying sternly: “The idea is that this particular missile-defense program cannot and is not expected to be able to somehow degrade the Russian nuclear deterrent.” She quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks on Tuesday, after an intercontinental ballistic missile test, that Moscow’s arsenal can penetrate and overwhelm any missile defense.

“We quite agree,” Miss Rice said.

The Bush administration says the system, which would be placed in Poland and the Czech Republic, would prevent an attack from Iran, North Korea and other rogue states, but not from Russia.

On Kosovo, Mr. Lavrov said Moscow’s position is “diametrically opposite” to those of the other G-8 members. He said that only Serbia and Kosovo, not foreign powers, should decide the province’s future.

A senior State Department official said the Russians “believe things can just drift along” in Kosovo, which has been under U.N. administration since 1999, “with mixed success.” They often raise Cyprus and even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as examples of how similar situations can drag on for decades, the official said. They have introduced the term “unrecognized states or territories,” he said.

The deadlocks on the missile-defense system and Kosovo are so serious that President Bush has invited Mr. Putin to his father’s house in Kennebunkport, Maine, July 1 and 2 for a last-ditch attempt at resolution, officials said.

Miss Rice’s argument with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was less heated than her spat with Mr. Lavrov. Mr. Steinmeier said that a multilateral agreement is the only way to address climate change.

Germany, which chairs the G-8 this year and will host the summit in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm, wrote a draft declaration committing the group’s members to cutting emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Bush administration has refused to sign on to the text, although negotiations are continuing.

Miss Rice said no deal would work unless China and India, the world’s fastest-developing countries and the biggest polluters after the United States, are part of it. Both countries have rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, from which Mr. Bush withdrew the United States as soon as he took office in 2001.

Miss Rice urged the Europeans to take another look at nuclear energy, a controversial subject on the Continent, if they want to limit greenhouse gas emissions. She also suggested new technologies, such as bio-fuels.

“The United States spends $5.8 billion a year on [dealing with climate change], and the president has asked for $7.4 billion in the 2008 budget,” the secretary said in response to accusations that the world’s biggest polluter is not doing enough.

The G-8 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

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