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    Russia offers to create currency pool with Belarus - 2

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    Russia is in favor of creating a currency pool with Belarus and expanding the use of the Russian ruble in bilateral trade, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

    (Adds Sidorsky's statements after para. 10)

    ZASLAVL (Belarus), October 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is in favor of creating a currency pool with Belarus and expanding the use of the Russian ruble in bilateral trade, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

    Putin is holding talks with his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Sidorsky on closer economic ties and currency cooperation.

    Russia and Belarus, the ex-Soviet neighbors, have been in talks since 1997 over the creation of a Union State, but the negotiations have been complicated by a host of issues, including energy and financial disputes, as well as division of power.

    Putin said he was surprised by the fact that both Russia and Belarus used the U.S. currency in the implementation of large-scale energy projects.

    "Meanwhile, the problems that have challenged the U.S. economy and the U.S. currency system are well known. Therefore, it is right to think about what I have said. This is important for the Russian national currency," Putin said.

    In turn, Sidorsky said Russia and Belarus should coordinate their actions in the economic sphere amid the changing global situation.

    Putin also said that the introduction of the Russian ruble as the common currency for the Union State was still on the agenda.

    "This will be quite a natural and relaxed move, with the creation of compulsory safety margins, taking into account both Russian interests and the national interests of the Republic of Belarus," Putin said.

    Russia and Belarus have discussed introducing the Russian ruble as the single currency in the Union State for several years now as disagreements persist over several monetary issues between the two ex-Soviet republics.

    Russia insists that a single money issuing center be set up in Moscow while Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is also seeking issuing powers for his republic.

    Sidorsky also said that the budget for the Union State will be increased by 20% in 2009 against this year to total some 5 billion rubles ($190.7 million).

    He said the budget increase was due to a number of joint programs that Russia and Belarus plan to implement next year.

    "We have discussed programs connected with high-technology development in the nanotechnology sphere," he said.

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