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    Moscow to host horse race instead of CIS summit - paper

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    Russia has invited the leaders of post Soviet countries to attend a horse race on Saturday, instead of holding an informal CIS summit, a business daily reported on Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has invited the leaders of post Soviet countries to attend a horse race on Saturday, instead of holding an informal CIS summit, a business daily reported on Wednesday.

    "The political implications of the event have been nullified: only those who take an interest in races will arrive," Vedomosti quoted a Kremlin source as saying.

    However, another presidential insider told the paper that any event envisaging communication between national leaders could be viewed as an informal summit.

    Of the 11 CIS leaders, the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Moldova confirmed on Tuesday that they would participate, the paper said. These countries, excluding Tajikistan, have already submitted their horses for the race. The presidents of the former Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will also attend.

    On the sidelines of the day at the races, the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia could meet to discuss means of ending the conflict in Nagorny Karabakh, according to the paper.

    Nagorny Karabakh, a mountainous region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population, has been a source of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the late 1980s. The province has its own government and is de facto independent, with close ties to Armenia.

    A Belarusian presidential spokesman told Vedomosti that the Moscow event was on Alexander Lukashenko's agenda, but that Minsk would not be able to confirm Lukashenko's attendance until Thursday. The Belarusian leader pulled out of a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Moscow in June amid a trade dispute with Russia over dairy supplies.

    A high-ranking source at the Russian Foreign Ministry told the paper that Uzbek President Islam Karimov was considering attending, but would probably decline.

    The presidents of Ukraine and Turkmenistan will not attend. A source in the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow told Vedomosti unless Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would be willing to hold a one-on-one meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko, there would be no point in the Ukrainian head of state attending.

    Turkmenistan's Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov declined the invitation due to a relative's illness.

    All CIS leaders attended the three previous summits.

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