WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama opposes excluding Russia from the Group of Eight industrial nations, as suggested by Republican rival John McCain, saying Moscow’s cooperation was needed in the fight against nuclear proliferation.
"It would be a mistake," Obama told CNN in an interview when asked about McCain’s proposal. CNN on Saturday released excerpts from the interview that will air on Sunday.
"Look, if we’re going to do something about nuclear proliferation, just to take one issue that I think is as important as any on the list, we’ve got to have Russia involved," the Illinois senator said.
"The amount of loose nuclear material that is floating around in the former Soviet Union, the amount of technical know-how that is in countries that used to be behind the Iron Curtain, without Russia’s cooperation, our efforts in that on that front will be greatly weakened."
McCain has said he would push for Russia’s removal from the G8 as punishment for rolling back political freedoms.
The G8 also includes the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan. Their leaders gather each year in one of their countries to discuss major economic and political challenges.
Russia is a fairly recent entry into the group, joining the Group of Seven in 1997. Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, hosted the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in 2006 when he was president.
In the interview, Obama also cited problems in Afghanistan, where the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai and a 50,000-strong NATO contingent face rising violence nearly seven years after U.S.-led forces ousted the country’s former Taliban rulers.
"I think the Karzai government has not gotten out of the bunker and helped to organize Afghanistan, and the government, the judiciary, police forces, in ways that would give people confidence. So there are a lot of problems there."
Asked how he would deal with Osama bin Laden if the al Qaeda leader were captured by U.S. forces in Pakistan, Obama said, "Well I think that if he was captured alive then we would make a decision to bring the full weight of not only U.S. justice, but world justice, down on him.
"And I think that, and I’ve said this before, that I am not a cheerleader for the death penalty, I think it has to be reserved for only the most heinous crimes, but I certainly think that plotting and engineering the death of 3,000 Americans justifies such an approach. Now I think this is a big hypothetical though. Let’s catch him first." (Writing by Peter Cooney; Editing by Eric Walsh)