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    Russia hopes to agree new cooperation pact with EU in 2-3 years

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    Russia hopes to conclude a new cooperation agreement with the European Union in two or three years, a deputy foreign minister said Thursday.

    KALININGRAD, December 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia hopes to conclude a new cooperation agreement with the European Union in two or three years, a deputy foreign minister said Thursday.

    "It is a wide-ranging document affecting all spheres of relations between Russia and the EU," Alexander Grushko said.

    The agreement would replace the 1997 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which was extended for a year when it expired in December 2007. Talks on a new deal have been repeatedly delayed, initially by Poland and Lithuania and most recently over Russia's August conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia.

    A decision to resume the negotiations was made at the Russia-EU summit in Nice on November 14, despite objections from Lithuania.

    Moscow earlier said that some EU members had tried to use the treaty issue to pressurize Russia.

    Russia supplies a considerable portion of Europe's energy needs, making many countries uneasy about dependence on Kremlin-controlled supplies. Russia, in turn, has been hard hit by the global credit crunch and falling oil prices, and needs reliable buyers for its natural gas.

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