SWEDISH AMBASSADOR SAYS RUSSIA'S 2004 ENTRY INTO WTO IS DECIDED

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NOVOSIBIRSK, April 27 (RIA Novosti, Siberia) - At the Days of Sweden forum in Novosibirsk (Siberia) on Tuesday, Henrik Sven Hirdman, the Swedish Ambassador to the Russian Federation, said that he is sure that Russia will enter the World Trade Organization (WTO) this year.

"I believe that this question has already been decided," Mr. Hirdman said. He also expressed hope that "considerable progress on the issue of Russia's entry into the WTO will be made at the Russia-EU summit on May 21."

A meeting of the Russia-EU Permanent Council of Partnership is being held in Luxembourg on Tuesday and Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, is participating.

The information and press department of the Foreign Ministry reported that the enlargement of the EU and its consequences for Russia and the progress of implementing a plan to create Russia-EU common spaces in the spheres of economy, internal and external security, science, education and culture will dominate the talks.

"It is significant to me that our forum is being held simultaneously with this," the ambassador said.

He also said that the annual trade turnover between Sweden and Russia is $3 billion. In the past four years alone, Swedish-Russian trade has increased by nearly 80%, Mr. Hirdman noted.

According to him, Sweden is "a large investor in Russia that does not leave a country even when economic crises occur."

The ambassador said: "We have long-term plans for mutual cooperation."

He stressed that the Days of Sweden forum, which opened in Novosibirsk, is meant to help further develop partnership relations between the two countries.

The forum has both business and cultural activities. Meetings of businessmen and managers of companies, Swedish classical and modern music concerts, a fine arts exhibit and a showing of popular Swedish films are planned for the forum.

About 30 Swedish companies are participating in the business mission. Machine building companies, the food and agricultural industry companies, and urban infrastructure companies will represent the Novosibirsk side.

The ambassador expressed hope that direct contacts would be established between companies and "concrete results would be achieved" during the two days.

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