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    PUTIN CONFERS ORDER OF FRIENDSHIP ON MORI

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    MOSCOW, 14 April (RIA Novosti)-Vladimir Putin has conferred the Order of Friendship on former premier of Japan Yoshiro Mori.

    "Russia and Japan are not only close neighbors," said Mr. Putin at the ceremony to confer the award, "but also prospected partners who are interested in each other," According to the president, people like Mr. Mori, with their pragmatism, purpose and energy are helping to uncover the full potential of bilateral cooperation.

    The head of state praised the Japanese prime minister's decision to appoint Mr. Mori co-chairman of the Russo-Japanese Council of Wise Men.

    "This forum should become a powerful intellectual body for working out original ideas and initiatives in the political, economic and cultural spheres," the president said.

    Mr. Putin is convinced that the practical work of the group will enrich contacts between Russia and Japan. "And the guarantee of this is the professional and personal qualities of Mr. Mori and the member of the Council of Wise Men," Mr. Putin said.

    Vladimir Putin pointed out that Russia had know Yoshiro Mori for many years as a genuine advocate of closer ties between Russia and Japan. "He has always worked to expand business and cultural cooperation between our countries," he said, before adding "and he has achieved some notable successes." According to the president, owing to Mr. Mori's direct participation, a numbe4r of significant projects and initiatives on the inter-state and regional levels, as well as between business communities and governmental organizations, had been implemented.

    The ceremony took place after a meeting between Vladimir Putin and the co-chairmen of the Russo-Japanese Council of Wise Men, Yuri Luzhkov and Yoshiro Mori.

    On Wednesday morning, the first session of the council was held in Moscow. The body is to prepare proposals for the Russia and Japanese leaderships to take effective decisions on problems in bilateral relations.

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