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Russia-Belarus Union council to convene in Minsk March 21

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MOSCOW, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - A regular session of the Russia-Belarus Union State Council will be held in Minsk on March 21, the Russian prime minister said at talks with his Belarusian counterpart on Friday.

Viktor Zubkov said that over 20 issues will be on the agenda of the upcoming meeting.

"We confirm our readiness to implement all previous agreements and to continue joint constructive work" the Russian prime minister told his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Sidorsky.

The ex-Soviet neighbors, Russia and Belarus, have been in talks since 1997 over creation of the union state, but the negotiations have been complicated by a host of issues, including energy and financial disputes.

The union's Parliamentary Assembly adopted a joint 2008 budget in November totaling about 5 billion Russian rubles (about $200 million). In 1999, the budget was 500 million rubles.

Experts have noted a lack of coordination and inefficiency in the union's executive bodies and its poor performance on joint programs.

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