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    Moldova to back Russia's WTO bid - PM-1

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    CHISINAU, May 19 (RIA Novosti) - Moldova will support Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said Friday.

    A recent ban on Moldovan wine imports to Russia sparked fears that the former Soviet republic would not back Russia's bid to join the world's largest trade body.

    "We will be pragmatists, and act in the republic's national interests," Tarlev said.

    "We want Russia to join the World Trade Organization as soon as possible and support this process," he said. "Russia's accession to the WTO will benefit not only Russia, but other countries, including Moldova."

    However, the Moldovan premier said that for WTO entry the main principals and standards of the organization must be met.

    Disputes have also arisen between the two countries over crop imports and VAT paid on Russian natural gas. The premier said Moldova would seek to resolve these issues abiding by regional, national and international law.

    Russia launched talks with the 58-member trade organization in 1994. Difficulties at negotiations with the U.S. earlier this year prompted some Russian officials and politicians to say that accession might be delayed for a long time.

    On Tuesday, Russia signed a bilateral WTO protocol with Colombia, but has yet to conclude talks with the U.S. and Australia.

    Maxim Medvedkov, Russia's chief negotiator on accession to the WTO, said Tuesday that he did not expect Moldova to block Russia's membership.

    Medvedkov said Russia had entered into talks with Moldova on its own initiative. He said Moldova sought to discuss veterinary and hygienic standards, as well as ways to ease or lift the March 27 embargo Russia imposed on Moldovan and Georgian wine over health concerns.

    Originally, Russia was not supposed to secure approval for its WTO bid from Moldova, a WTO member with which it has a free trade agreement, Medvedkov said.

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