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    Putin, Lukashenko to discuss Union State constitutional act

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    The Russian and Belarusian leaders will discuss a draft constitutional act for the Russia-Belarus Union State during Vladimir Putin's visit set for December 13-14, the union state secretary said Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, December 12 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian and Belarusian leaders will discuss a draft constitutional act for the Russia-Belarus Union State during Vladimir Putin's visit set for December 13-14, the union state secretary said Wednesday.

    Pavel Borodin said Putin and Alexander Lukashenko will discuss "pragmatic issues", including "trade and economic cooperation, the 2008 budget, foreign policy, fuel and energy stability and the drafting of the constitutional act."

    Borodin's deputy, Vasily Khrol, said bilateral trade had almost quadrupled since 1995 to over $19 billion in 2006.

    Khrol also said turnover in January-September 2007 was $18.1 billion, 22.8% higher than the same period last year, and added that the figure would reach $23 billion by the year end.

    The union's Parliamentary Assembly adopted a joint 2008 budget in November totaling about 5 billion Russian rubles (about $200 million). In 1999, the budget was 500 million rubles.

    Experts have said the union's executive bodies lack coordination and efficiency, while joint programs have demonstrated poor performance.

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