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Italian FM to build on Prodi visit results in Moscow

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MOSCOW, June 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister met with his Italian counterpart Friday to discuss bilateral economic cooperation.

Massimo D'Alema's visit to Russia comes on the heels of a visit earlier in June by Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, which brought crucial bilateral agreements in the energy sphere and aircraft building.

"I know that you are meeting with the Russian finance minister today," Sergei Lavrov said. "Your Moscow visit program will allow us to continue following Romano Prodi's visit talks on our further partnership in the economic sphere and on international issues."

During Prodi's visit to Russia June 20, the two countries reached an agreement under which Russian companies would receive access to Italy's energy market and Italian companies obtain access to Russian oil and gas deposits, thereby dispelling complicated access complaints from both Russian and European companies.

And D'Alema told journalists after the meeting with Lavrov that Italy was prepared to open it market to Gazprom to allow it sell natural gas directly.

During the Italian prime minister's visit, Prodi and President Vladimir Putin were also present at the signing of an agreement between Russia's leading aircraft producer Sukhoi and Italy's Finmeccanica on cooperation in building and marketing the Russian Regional Jet, a medium-range passenger airliner developed by Sukhoi in cooperation with major American and European aircraft corporations.

This deal, which is yet to be approved by the governments, is also seen as a breakthrough as Finmeccanica reportedly plans to buy 25% plus one share in the RRJ project, although Russian legislation does not allow foreign companies to acquire more than 25% stakes in Russian aviation enterprises.

D'Assima said at today's meeting that Prodi's visit had proved that relations with Russia represented a foreign policy priority for Italy regardless of the government in power.

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