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French president arrives in Russia

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Moscow on Tuesday on a two-day visit, during which he will hold talks focusing on economic ties and key international issues with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
MOSCOW, October 9 (RIA Novosti) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Moscow on Tuesday on a two-day visit, during which he will hold talks focusing on economic ties and key international issues with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin said Sarkozy, who last visited Moscow as finance minister in 2004, and his Russian counterpart, will have an informal dinner later on Tuesday, and hold talks in the Kremlin Wednesday.

Presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said the two leaders would focus on joint investment projects, as energy supplies make up the majority of Russia's exports to France.

"Large projects also include the launch of Russian Soyuz booster rockets from the Kourou Space Center [in French Guiana], the production of Superjet 100 regional planes, projects to convert A320 and A321 passenger jets into cargo planes, and cooperation in the construction of highways and railways," Prikhodko said.

The presidential aide also said that Russia supported French carmaker Renault's plans to double output in Russia, and that Peugeot Citroen was currently looking for a site in the country.

Prikhodko pointed to growing trade between the countries, which grew 13.9% to $6.8 billion in the first half of 2007. The official said that despite their apparent rivalry in the nuclear sector, the two countries were also interested in nuclear power cooperation.

The international agenda of the talks will include the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, U.S. missile defense plans, the situation in the Middle East, including Iraq and the Iranian nuclear program, and a Russia-EU summit to be held in Portugal later this month.

"We would like to learn Sarkozy's opinion regarding the future of relations between Russia and the European Union, taking into account France's EU presidency in the second half of 2008," Prikhodko said, adding that as a founder of the EU, France could do more than any other member of the organization to back a new Russia-EU strategic agreement.

Putin and Sarkozy will also attend the opening of a monument to French WWII fighter squadron Normandie-Niemen at Lefortovo Park in south-east Moscow. A similar memorial was unveiled at Le Bourget near Paris when Putin visited France in 2005.

Sarkozy, 52, who served for two years as interior minister before becoming president, and was known for heavy-handed policies on security and migration, was elected leader on May 6, 2007.

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