PUTIN, BERLUSCONI DISCUSS ECONOMIC, WORLD PROBLEMS

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MOSCOW, April 20 (RIA Novosti) - Vladimir Putin is certain that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's trip to Moscow will be a success.

"Despite all the problems and challenges facing us, Silvio Berlusconi's trip to Moscow is very timely and expected to be successful," said the president of Russia.

"As to the economic sector, a certain progress is marked and our relations are on the rise. According to Russian customs statistics, Italy has snatched the second place as to the trade turnover with Russia which grew 12.9 percent last year," noted the president.

Reporting that Berlusconi had just attended the opening ceremony of an Italian bank office in Moscow, the president said: "The prospects for materialising the idea of setting up Italian industrial districts in Russia, you uttered two years ago, have become quite feasible." For his part, Berlusconi emphasised that the Itlaian entrepreneurs based in Russia had lacked one key element-the opening of an effective operations Italian bank on the territory of Russia." In the opinion of the Italian premier, the bank would also serve Russian business people who would like to work on the Italian market.

Italian Prime Minister was rather eloquent about his role in the consolidation of Russia-EU relationships.

"I think I did contribute to an improved dialogue between Russia and the European Union in the period of Italy's presiding over that organisation.

I know that Moscow will soon be the venue of a Russia-EU summit and the theme will anyway arise," noted the Italian premier. He suggested that he and Vladimir Putin discuss Russia-EU cooperation in light of the coming summit.

Silvio Berlusconi expressed the conviction that relations between Russia and Italy could be still better. "Bilateral relations are developing smoothly but we can do a lot to make them still more intensive," said the premier, adding that Italy was prepared to simplify the visa issue for Russian citizens, which, in his opinion, was certain to perfect bilateral contacts.

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