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    RUSSIAN, SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTERS TO DISCUSS RUSSIA-EU PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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    MOSCOW, February 27, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Olga Protasenko) - On March 2 Russian and Swedish Foreign Ministers will discuss further development of Russia-EU partnership, the press and information department of the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

    This is Laila Freivalds' first visit to Russia as Swedish Foreign Minister.

    "This will be a familiarizing visit. Certainly, consultations with Igor Ivanov on different issues will be held," Swedish ambassador to Russia Sven Hirdman told RIA Novosti on Friday.

    "I believe the talks will start with a discussion of bilateral relations, which have been successfully developing in political and economic spheres. At issue will be some practical issues of Russian-Swedish cooperation, for instance, the opening of the Swedish information and cultural center in St. Petersburg," the Swedish ambassador said.

    The Russian and Swedish foreign ministers will also discuss the work of the Russia-EU permanent partnership council and creation of common spaces in the spheres of economy, trade, internal and external security, freedom, justice, science and culture, the development of crisis settlement cooperation and factors annoying Russia in connection with EU expansion, said a source in the press and information department of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

    In addition, the foreign ministers will consider the status of the Russian-speaking population in Latvia and Estonia, in particular, the policy on displacing the Russian education in Latvian schools leading to social tensions.

    "Admitting these countries, the European Union assumes responsibility for their humanitarian situations. Double standards are impossible in united democratic Europe," the press and information department said.

    "Russia and Sweden have different assessments of the situations around these countries. Soon these countries will join the European Union and this is very important. We would like to stop controversy between Russia and its Baltic neighbors. The sides are likely to discuss this issue at the talks," Sven Hirdman said.

    Igor Ivanov and Laila Freivalds will also discuss vital international issues, first of all, the Mideastern settlement and the situation in Iraq. Russia and Sweden have common positions on such issues as the supremacy of the international law, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and trans-border crime, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, prevention and settlement of regional conflicts.

    "Russia regards Sweden as a good neighbor and reliable trade and economic partner," the Russian Foreign Ministry's press and information department said.

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