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Putin, presidents of other ex-Soviet republics discuss boosting trade
Mon May 13, 5:34 AM ET

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) and the presidents of four other ex-Soviet republics met Monday to try to revive trade among their countries, which has dwindled since the USSR's demise.

While Putin praised the five countries' efforts through the Eurasian Economic Community, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko complained that the group had failed to substantially boost trade since its creation.

The group was formed in 2000 by Russia, Belarus, and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Russia's economy is by far the powerhouse of the group, while Belarus, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have flailed financially through the past decade of independence.

"So far we are not fulfilling agreements we have achieved fully or precisely enough," Lukashenko said, in remarks shown on NTV television.

He noted that only 25 percent of the countries' overall trade was with one another, despite their proximity and Soviet-era ties.

Putin, meanwhile, said the group "is gradually turning into the locomotive of integration processes and draws the close attention of our partners."

The five presidents discussed attempts to join the World Trade Organization (news - web sites), customs rules and preventing antidumping measures, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev's term as chairman of the group was extended at Monday's meeting.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin also was to hold talks with Putin on Monday. The Eurasian group is considering admitting Moldova as an observer, and Putin said Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is also interested in observer status.

On Tuesday, the presidents were to meet again at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the collective security treaty signed by six ex-Soviet republics.


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