Fight terrorism and cut arms - G8 message from Canada

Fighting terrorism and non-proliferation top the agenda as G8 foreign ministers convene in Ottawa, Canada, ahead of the major G8 summit in June.

The tragedy on the Moscow underground has once again highlighted the problem of curbing terrorism around the globe. The G8 foreign ministers have condemned the recent attacks on the Moscow Metro and called for Russian authorities to find those behind the terror attacks.

The ministers pledged to continue to cooperate to stop terrorism and promote security based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

Thus, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who opened the ministerial meeting, said that Afghanistan should become a country free from terrorism.

Earlier on Monday he announced an Afghani-Pakistani border initiative bound to promote economic development and trade in the area.

Non-proliferation was another important issue raised.

The Canadian Prime Minster hailed the arms reduction efforts of Russia and the US as the two countries prepare to sign a new version of the START treaty.

Meeting with other G8 foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov outlined the key points of the new START agreement – which will be signed by Presidents Medvedev and Obama in Prague next week.

“The new START treaty is legally binding, and it includes a link between offensive and defensive strategic weapons. The treaty says that Russia and the United States have the right to any kind of self-defense, but only if the terms of the treaty are breached. I'm confident that we will not see this happen, if Moscow and Washington stick to their commitments and continue to cooperate,” Lavrov said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged giving a direct answer about whether the new START treaty will cripple US plans to put an anti-missile defense system in Europe. She said both Moscow and Washington are committed to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“We believe that the United States and Russia, being the largest nuclear-arsenal states in the world, have a special obligation,” Clinton said. “There has to be a balance between offensive and defensive weapons, and it would be in the world’s interest for United States and Russia to cooperate on helping not only to protect ourselves, but to protect other nations from potential attacks from either rogue states or terrorist networks.”

Refusal to cooperate on behalf of North Korea and Iran was condemned.

The foreign ministers called on the world community to take suitable and resolute steps in connection with the Iranian nuclear program, though stressed that the G8 member countries were open for dialogue with Tehran.

Russia is seeking a diplomatic solution on Iran, but has not ruled out sanctions completely.

The G8 ministers are discussing the problem of non-proliferation only two weeks ahead of a major Washington summit on the problem.