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Russian watchdog proposes EU joint check of Polish meat

MOSCOW, April 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's agricultural watchdog has proposed the European Union conduct "joint checks" of Polish meat products and veterinary safety in Poland, the watchdog's press service said Wednesday.

Last November, EU newcomer Poland vetoed talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Moscow and Brussels replacing the current pact, which expires in late 2007, over a Russian ban on meat and other agricultural imports from Poland. Moscow cited health concerns, but Warsaw said the move was political.

The Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Oversight said the results of the checks will allow Russia to make a weighted decision on whether to resume Polish meat imports.

The Russian watchdog said it had made the decision after studying the materials of a Russian-Polish inspection and documents provided by the EU on the state of state veterinary control in Poland.

"The chief veterinary inspectorate of Poland implemented a number of measures to remove problems," it said.

However, the watchdog said, it had not yet received answers to certain questions.

An EC representative said the commission was ready to provide additional information on agricultural product quality to the Russian watchdog.

"We are ready to provide Russia with any additional information required," Philip Tod told journalists in Brussels, adding that he hoped this would be enough to lift the embargo.

Russia imposed an embargo on Polish meat in November 2005 claiming that meat from third countries was being imported as Polish produce.

Poland sees Russian sanctions as retaliation for Warsaw's backing of the 2004 "orange revolution" in Ukraine, which brought pro-Western forces to power in the country.

Relations between Russia and Poland, a former Communist Bloc country that joined the EU in May 2004, have deteriorated dramatically in the past few years.

A string of recent diplomatic spats has increased mutual distrust between the two neighbors, prompting many politicians in Warsaw to conclude that the Kremlin is using the embargo on Polish imports as a political weapon.

The European Commission has said there were no grounds for an embargo on Polish products, but has admitted that Poland made deviations from European regulations on meat exports.

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