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    Polish PM starts Moscow visit focusing on missile defense, visas

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    Poland's prime minister is meeting with his Russian counterpart as part of his one-day visit to Moscow set to focus on U.S. missile defense plans, visa regulations and Russia-EU ties.

    MOSCOW/WARSAW, February 8 (RIA Novosti) - Poland's prime minister is meeting with his Russian counterpart as part of his one-day visit to Moscow set to focus on U.S. missile defense plans, visa regulations and Russia-EU ties.

    The visit is Donald Tusk's first to Russia since he came to power in November 2007, when he moved to bridge a gap in bilateral ties. Moscow has since agreed to lift a 2005 embargo on Polish meat, and Warsaw, in response, to withdraw its veto from cooperation pact talks between Russia and the European Union.

    Meeting with Viktor Zubkov, Tusk said Poland "sees no obstacles in creating good and friendly bilateral ties."

    Tusk said ahead of the visit that his government is set to tackle other sensitive issues straining relations with Russia: "I want these intentions to be treated seriously [by Moscow]," he said.

    The Russian president's aide, Sergei Prikhodko, said earlier: "Russia-EU relations in the context of the start of talks on a new strategic partnership treaty with the European bloc, U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile defense shield in Poland, and the situation in the Balkans will top the international agenda of the [Moscow] meetings."

    Also during his one-day visit, Tusk will meet with President Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister widely expected to succeed the incumbent following the March 2 presidential elections.

    Prikhodko said on the missile defense issue that Putin "will set out Russia's position, which is no secret to Poland" also highlighting Warsaw's responsibility for "future generations" on the question.

    Tusk is pursuing a tougher line at talks with the United States on the deployment of interceptor missiles on Polish soil, demanding aid in improving national missile defenses. Moscow treats the possible emergence of new missile bases in Central Europe as a security threat and promised to retarget its missiles on Poland. Washington says new bases are to counter possible strikes from Iran and other "rogue states."

    Prikhodko said they will also focus on mutual travel and visas after Poland, an EU and NATO member, joined the Schengen visa-free zone late last year. The two countries are mulling introducing exemptions for people living in border areas.

    The Polish premier said earlier he would try to promote in Moscow an alternative to the ambitious Nord Stream natural gas pipeline Russia and Germany are building under the Baltic Sea to detour the ex-Soviet Baltic states and Poland.

    Moscow has rejected the Warsaw-proposed pipeline from Russia through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, to avoid possible pricing disputes with transit nations, which it has been involved in in recent years.

    The Kremlin aide said economic cooperation issues will also be prominent at talks with Tusk.

    Bilateral trade grew to about $17 billion in 2007 compared with $14.9 billion a year ago, Prikhodko said adding though Russia is seeking to review the trade structure, when Russian energy supplies account for 90% of its exports to the country, and remove trade barriers.

    "We hope the Polish prime minister's visit and talks in Moscow will mark the start of progress [in bilateral relations]," Prikhodko said.

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