March 2, 2010 / 10:00 PM / 10 years ago

France urges Russia's Medvedev to battle corruption

PARIS (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitri Medvedev must follow through with his reform program and root out corruption, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday, urging ever closer ties between Paris and Moscow.

Speaking at a dinner in honour of the visiting Medvedev, Sarkozy said France and Russia had the same goals and needed to cooperate, burying the legacy of the Cold War.

“We have to close ranks, the Russians and the French, because we have the same objectives,” Sarkozy said, adding that the two countries had to work together to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, notably in Iran.

He also said Medvedev should honour his domestic political commitments.

“Pursue your reform program, pursue your modernisation program, pursue all your policies against corruption and for a rule of law ... out of respect of your own promises,” he said.

Nearly two years after his election, analysts have said there is little evidence that Medvedev is implementing promises to open Russia’s controlled political system, modernise its oil-fuelled economy and fight rampant corruption.

NGOs and business chiefs complain that corruption is as bad as ever or worse, while Kremlin-friendly regional bosses accused of unethical behaviour have been re-appointed.

Sarkozy has been eager to forge close ties with Moscow since he took office in 2007, looking to make Paris a major commercial and diplomatic ally, and has tended to avoid delicate issues such as allegations of human rights abuses in Russia.

Tuesday he praised Medvedev’s commitment to improving rights in Russia.

“Your attachment to the rule of law, to the respect for legality, for judicial security, for the defence of human rights greatly helps the rapprochement between our nations,” he said.

Medvedev started his visit Monday, with his delegation of businessmen signing accords in the energy and transport sectors.

In a controversial move, Sarkozy also said France was in talks to sell four Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia, which would be Moscow’s largest arms deal with a NATO country.

Washington and some east European allies have expressed concern at the mooted sale, fearing it would greatly enhance Russia’s capacity for rapidly deploying its forces.

Sarkozy has said that if the West wants to engage Russia in constructive dialogue it has to treat it as an equal partner.

Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; writing by Crispian Balmer; editing by Andrew Roche

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