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    RUSSIA TO JOIN WTO ON OWN TERMS, PUTIN SAYS AFTER EU SUMMITRY

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    MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is to join the World Trade Organisations on terms Moscow will find acceptable, President Vladimir Putin said to a news briefing after a Russia-EU summit. Today's summitry brought Russia's agreement with the European Union on finishing negotiations for Russian membership of the WTO. Enthusiastic about the document, the federal President described it as "a long-awaited balanced understanding", which came as one of the principal summit achievements.

    This was a first Russia-EU summit since the recent and ambitious European Union enlargement. "It [the summitry] finished with a positive move, and that is good," remarked Mr. Putin as he thanked the EU heads of state for a constructive and interested contribution to WTO-related talks.

    The agreement "will have a positive impact on Russia's talks with China, the USA and other countries who are leading [world] commerce", he said.

    "Russia must join the WTO on terms acceptable to it," the President firmly added.

    Meanwhile, many WTO countries insist on Russia raising domestic fuel and energy prices high up to global standards, what with its fabulous oil, gas and coal deposits, and giant rivers as electricity sources. As analysts point out, that would be like calling China-a WTO country-to send domestic rice prices up to global.

    President Putin expressed gratitude for Romano Prodi, European Commission President, for fruitful teamwork. His tone was familiar as a close friend's as he said, "Thanks a lot, Romano," at the briefing.

    Signor Prodi, who is coming to an end of his Commission presidency, had thanked Vladimir Putin for the same just before. Russia's President confessed he was feeling rather awkward over that-the mutual thanks made the briefing something of a mutual admiration society. Yet he could not finish his talk with the media unless he duly thanked Romano Prodi and his colleagues for what they had done, said Mr. Putin.

    He also felt thankful for a spirit of comradeship, mutual understanding and reciprocal support. "There were many arguments and tiny conflicts invisible to the onlooker in the job of essential importance," said President Putin.

    Russia will now move quicker than before toward Kyoto protocol ratification, he reassured. "We approve and support the Kyoto process." The European Union met Russia halfway by signing the protocol within the context of Russia's upcoming WTO membership. Russia will now pay in kind by stepping up Kyoto efforts even though it is apprehensive of certain pledges the protocol implies.

    "Hazards are coming up all at a time-the EU enlargement, the WTO, and the Kyoto protocol," complained the President.

    To tie in protocol signing with WTO membership prospects has the last thing Russia had intended to do. "We did not mean to have the matters all in a package. In fact, we pointed out that the EU enlargement, involved WTO talks, and joining the Kyoto protocol-all threatened Russia medium-term economic problems hard to predict. An attentive ear was lent us, with our concern," said Vladimir Putin.

    Putin has said that Russia and the EU had agreed on certain steps linked to the EU's expansion. "We have agreed on certain forms of solving the problems of the Kaliningrad region (Russia's exclave on the Baltic Sea)," said the president.

    "All this reduces the risks to our economy in the mid-term prospect and will help rapidly solve the problem of Russia joining the Kyoto protocol. This issue is within the competence of the country's parliament and not the president. and we will in turn boost this process," said the head of state.

    The president added that Russia will have to reinforce its borders before thhe visa-free regime is established with the EU.

    "Russia should do a lot before it can enjoy the rights that EU citizens have, incudling in terms of movements. We will in particular have to reinforce our borders," said Putin.

    The president also stressed that agreements with EU countries help establish the visa-free regime.

    The prime minister of Ireland presiding over the EU, Bertie Ahern in turn said it had been agreed to continue talks on this issue.

    "We have discussed what we should do on this issue," he said.

    We have discussed what we can do on this issue in detail, concurred Chairman of the European Commission Romano Prodi.

    During the press conference, Putin also said he expected the situation around te rights of Russian-speaking minority in the Baltic countries to improve.

    "The new EU members will have to adjust to the single human rights concept of the united Europe. I expect the Russian speaking population to notice the changes," said the president.

    according to Putin, the summit considered some sensitive issues. In his words, they include the Chechen problem and the human rights situation in the Baltic countries.

    He remarked that a group of European parliamentarians visited Latvia recently and made its own conclusions on the Nazism propaganda in that country.

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