White House denies charge Russia faces lobby problems in U.S.

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The George W. Bush administration has dismissed complaints made by the Russian president that Russia faces serious obstacles while trying to lobby for its interests in the United States.
WASHINGTON, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - The George W. Bush administration has dismissed complaints made by the Russian president that Russia faces serious obstacles while trying to lobby for its interests in the United States.

Speaking at a news briefing Thursday, White House press spokesman Tony Snow said the administration did not prevent Russia from hiring lobbyists in Washington.

"They may hire whatever lobbyist they want - all they need to do is register," Snow said. "That's the answer, that's the law."

He also reassured lobbyists that they did not need to worry about doing business with Russians.

"It's legal to lobby in this country. All you need to do is register and pay your [agent]," Snow said.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of Russian and foreign journalists and political scientists that Russia's attempts to hire lobbyists in the U.S. have met with opposition from the U.S. State Department.

"In line with U.S. legislation, we wanted to sign contracts with lobbying organizations legitimately working in Congress," Putin said. "But the people we contacted with said State Department officials advised them to be wary of dealing with Russians. That is strange."

Putin said, however, that U.S. officials denied the advice was given.

"This means that either representatives of the lobbying community or State Department officials are misleading us. Such nuisances are hampering a constructive dialogue," he said.

Putin said Russia is still subject to prejudice experienced by the former Soviet Union, and he condemned such attitudes as inappropriate.

Although the two countries have emerged as partners since the end of the Cold War and become allies in the fight against terrorism, their relations are still marred by a series of unresolved economic and political issues.

Russia has, for example, complained that the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which restricted trade with the former Soviet Union, remains in force for Russia, although it has been lifted for many of its former targets.

Putin condemned earlier U.S. discrimination against Russian nuclear companies, which are still subject to Soviet-era restrictions on low-enriched uranium supplies to the American market.

Moscow also failed to secure Washington's approval of a bilateral deal on accession to the World Trade Organization at Russia's debut Group of Eight summit in July, when U.S. negotiators put forward new demands.

Some experts in Moscow said the failure of the WTO talks resulted from differences between Russia and the U.S., both veto-wielding UN Security Council members, over Iran's controversial nuclear program, with Washington seeking sanctions against the Islamic Republic and Russia opposing them.

Politicians in the U.S., in turn, have accused Moscow of backtracking on democracy and of using its vast energy resources to blackmail and intimidate its former Soviet neighbors, and as a political tool in relations with Western countries.

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