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    MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - This is a 60th anniversary of Russia and New Zealand establishing diplomatic relations. Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand forwarded a congratulatory message to Russia's President Vladimir Putin on the occasion. Speaker Jonathan Hunt of New Zealand's parliament, currently in Moscow on an official visit, passed the message today to Valeri Loschinin, the host country's First Deputy Foreign Minister, reports the Foreign Ministry press and information department.

    Messrs. Loschinin and Hunt met at the negotiation table to discuss the progress of bilateral contacts. Either country is interested in ever closer interstate links and foreign political team efforts, stressed the conferees, who spoke for extended bilateral trade, and called to step up other forms of economic partnership, in particular, mutual capital investment.

    Though bilateral diplomatic relations were established as late as April 13, 1944, official contacts had fairly long antecedents. A first instance came when New Zealand was a British Crown dominion as, in 1914, Russia appointed a supernumerary Vice Consul in Wellington, subordinate to the Consul General in Melbourne.

    A first Russian acquaintance with New Zealand came early in the 19th century, when admirals Fabian, or Faddei, von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev, both outstanding seafarers, led round-the-world voyages to do much for description and exploration of the largely untrodden land.

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