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There are no obstacles to developing bilateral cooperation between Minsk
There are no obstacles to developing bilateral cooperation between Minsk and Moscow, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday.

"I am satisfied with current bilateral relations between our countries. We have no obstacles to cooperation," Lukashenko said at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.

The Russian premier started a working visit to Belarus on Friday. His program includes talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Sergei Sidorsky, and President Lukashenko. Zubkov will also attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Russia-Belarus Union State.

Lukashenko told Zubkov that Belarus' trade turnover had increased to $5 billion and the country's GDP growth was expected to reach 10% in the first three months of 2008.

Prior to the visit, a source in the Russian delegation said Russia and Belarus were planning to increase bilateral trade to $30 billion in the near future and lift trade restrictions.

"We are sure to reach $30 billion soon," the spokesman said.

Bilateral trade between Russia and Belarus went up 30%, year-on-year, to $26 billion in 2007, with Russian exports to Belarus increasing 31.2% and imports from Belarus rising 29.8%. The spokesman called the figures "exemplary."

Moscow and Minsk are also set to continue moving toward lifting trade barriers and bilateral restrictions on the access of goods to each other's markets.

Russia is also insisting that Belarus cancel nontax deductions by joint ventures for government funds, the source said.

Last year, pipeline operator Beltransgaz transferred around 19% of the cost of its products and services, or about $70 billion, to the Belarusian Energy Ministry's innovation fund.

"This runs counter to agreements on establishing joint ventures," the spokesman said.

In mid-May 2007, Gazprom signed a deal to purchase a 50% stake in Beltransgaz for $2.5 billion. Under the deal, a joint gas transmission venture should be set up.

According to statistics, Russia accounts for around 50% of Belarus' foreign trade. Belarus primarily imports oil and natural gas.


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