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Russia and Australia shake hands on uranium deal

Russia and Australia have signed an agreement to export Australian uranium for use in Russia's civil nuclear power programme. It came as a result of a meeting between Russian President Putin and his Australian counterpart John Howard, ahead of the Asia Pa

“There is no reason Russia would want to enrich the uranium, which we are going to buy from Australia. We are buying in for civil purposes only. In Soviet times we built 30 nuclear power stations. And we are planning to built another 30. This is why we are buying uranium from Australia. As for supplying uranium to other countries, if there is a need for that, Russia has enough of its own resources,” Vladimir Putin said.

“Any uranium that would be sold to Russia would be sold subject to very strict safeguards. The President in our discussion made the point, which I think is relevant. Russia already has an enormous amount of military nuclear material which it is selling, principally to the U.S., for reprocessing,” Australian President, John Howard, commented.  

Meanwhile, officials from Asia-Pacific countries continue to arrive in Sydney for APEC, the annual Asia-Pacific economic summit.

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) is one of the largest gatherings of world powers Australia ever hosted. APEC members account for over a half of the world's economy and trade, and 40% of its population.

Global warming and trade will top the agenda of APEC 2007, North Korea and Iraq are also expected to be among the topics discussed.

RT's political commentator Peter Lavelle explains the importance of this year's forum for Russia.

Presidents of Russia and U.S. to meet in Sydney

Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with U.S. President George Bush during the visit. The two sides are expected to discuss Russia's efforts to join the World Trade Organisation and the American missile defence system in Eastern Europe.

Some sightseeing in the world famous Sydney harbour is also planned.

Protestors against Asia Pacific Forum clash with police

Scuffles have broken out between police and protestors in Sydney. Around 1,000 demonstrators against the Asia Pacific Forum gathered in a park near the hotel where the summit's delegates are staying. Witnesses say a sudden downpour seems to have triggered the crowd to rush toward a police cordon outside the hotel. Police blocked anyone attempting to pass, forming a human wall to stop protesters.

Earlier, President Putin visited Indonesia, where he stressed the significance of Russia's co-operation with APEC.

“The APEC forum is made up of a unique range of member-countries with economies at various stages of development. Increasing its activity in APEC is important to Russia’s national interests. We see it as a major trend of Russia's foreign policy and we intend to further improve trade conditions in the region. This plan co-ordinates well with Russia's social and economic development plans. This will primarily be realised with development programmes for the Far East and other regions in the Asia-Pacific area,” Vladimir Putin said.

Vladimir Putin's visit to Australia is the first ever by a Russian leader, 65 years after diplomatic relations between the two countries started.

The Russian community in Australia has been looking forward to his visit.

“There is work to do to establish better relations between Australia and Russia. Australia is kind of on the side of the world, and now we get such a lot of attention. So we are exited,” said Vladimir Kuzmin, the owner of the Russian newspaper Unification, published weekly in Australia.

It seems relations between Australia and Russia are about bridging the distance between them to form closer economic and political ties.

Meanwhile, the members of the APEC forum have called for talks on Russia's membership of the World Trade Organization to be speeded up. Russia’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade, German Gref, hopes the country will complete talks over its accession to the WTO by the end of the year, but formal procedures are likely to be postponed until next year.

Also, at Thursday's session, APEC members welcomed Russia's intention to chair the organisation in 2012 and host the summit in Vladivostok, Russia’s largest port city on the Pacific Ocean, if APEC leaders approve.