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Italian PM to meet Putin in Moscow

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Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi will arrive in Russia Thursday on a one-day visit at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, a Kremlin spokesperson said.
MOSCOW, November 22 (RIA Novosti) - Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi will arrive in Russia Thursday on a one-day visit at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, a Kremlin spokesperson said.

Putin and Prodi will focus on bilateral trade and economic cooperation, particularly in the energy sector.

"Particular attention will be paid to the South Stream project to build a new natural gas transportation system from Russia to southern Europe under the Black Sea," the spokesperson said.

Russian energy giant Gazprom and Italian oil and gas company Eni S.p.A. agreed in June to build the South Stream pipeline, which will deliver 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually via Bulgaria to Austria, Slovenia and Italy.

"An addendum to the memorandum of understanding between Gazprom and Eni establishing a joint venture for the South Stream feasibility study, is planned to be signed during Prodi's visit," the Kremlin representative said.

The project replaces previous plans to extend the Blue Stream pipeline, which runs from Russia to Turkey, and is in line with the Russian natural gas monopoly's plans to seek new export routes to avoid transit countries following a gas supply dispute with Ukraine in 2005.

The spokesperson said the agenda also includes discussing industrial cooperation and high technology projects, particularly with the high-tech industrial group Finmeccanica.

"Projects are being implemented to build Russia's SuperJet 100 airliners, a federal TETRA-standard mobile communications network, and partnerships are developing in the transport sector and military and technical cooperation," the representative said.

Italy is one of Russia's key partners in Europe. Over the first nine months of 2007, bilateral trade turnover reached $24.5 billion, rising 7.6% year-on-year, the source said.

The Kremlin source said the leaders will also discuss vital international issues, such as Washington's plans to expand its air defense system in Europe, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, ways to resolve the status of Serbia's breakaway region of Kosovo and the Middle East peace process.

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