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    TOMORROW RUSSIA AND EU HOPE TO INK AGREEMENT ON END OF RUSSIA-WTO JOINING TALKS

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    MOSCOW, May 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and the European Union hope to sign on Friday the agreement on ending the talks to join the World Trade Organisation, Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and the EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said at the bilateral talks in Moscow on Thursday.

    "We have the government's mandate for reaching an agreement with you today", Gref told the Lamy-led European experts.

    "If so, we have the mandate for signing an agreement with the EU tomorrow, he added.

    "Success or no success of today's talks will say if tomorrow we'll wind up the six-year-long talks on joining the WTO", Gref added. "Today is a very responsible day".

    Gref said that at a sitting on Thursday the cabinet discussed the talks with the EU and passed to the European colleagues "the optimism of the Russian cabinet".

    Before the talks, Gref said that he had discussed "in a narrow format" with Lamy a set of questions, including the "the most sensitive" - most probably, the EU energy demands. "We are now looking for the appropriate wording so as to seal the agreements", he said.

    Gref thanked European colleagues for their last-night enthusiasm in coordinating the negotiating positions. "The forward group has spent a sleepless night coordinating positions for today's meeting", Gref said. They have prepared a good headstart for the next round of talks and "should discuss the remaining headaches most constructively".

    In turn, Pascal Lamy, leading the European delegation, voiced the hope that all the matters would be settled today.

    "Earlier, I said that from 10 to 15 percent of the positions remain to be coordinated. I have a feeling that today we'll finalise the package agreement", Lamy said. -90- (nov/sm)

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