France raises doubts about Russia's G-8 role

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News,Business,Russia,France

PARIS (AP) — France's foreign minister cast doubt Tuesday on Russia's participation in the Group of Eight world powers because of its incursion into Crimea, saying the other members of the elite economic club are ready to meet without Moscow.

Other G-8 countries said that no decision has yet been made on Russia's future in the group. It's an especially sensitive question now, because Russia has the G-8's rotating leadership and is scheduled to host U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders for a summit in Sochi in June.

Amid tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, the other members of the group — the U.S. Britain, Germany, Japan, France, Italy and Canada — had already suspended preparations for that summit.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius went further Tuesday, saying on Europe-1 radio that "concerning the G-8 ... we decided to suspend Russia's participation, and it is envisaged that all the other countries, the seven leading countries, will unite without Russia."

Fabius did not give further details.

Allies suggested he spoke too soon, amid a frenzy of diplomacy around Ukraine and Russia in recent weeks.

Britain's Foreign Office said Tuesday that Russia is still part of the G-8 — but did not rule out a suspension.

"The G-7 collectively made clear last week that we would take further action should the Russian Federation seek to annex Crimea," the Foreign Office said in a statement. "We are keeping this under review and talking to G-7 partners."

In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said Japan is not aware of any decision to suspend Russia and hold a G-7 summit elsewhere. Germany's Foreign Ministry said it had no information about a change.

Russia joined the seven established market economies to form the G-8 in the 1990s, but has been a bit of an odd man out at their annual meetings. The G-8 has been eclipsed in recent years by the G-20, which includes China and emerging markets and was created to better represent the drivers of the 21st-century global economy.

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Cassandra Vinograd in London, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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