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Russia's prime minister said on Saturday the country still wants
Russia's prime minister said on Saturday the country still wants to join the WTO and step up economic ties with the EU, backtracking on the statement made amid strains with the West over the Georgia conflict.

"Despite certain problems, we have not given up the idea of joining the WTO and are prepared to step up economic dialogue with the European Union as much as possible," Vladimir Putin said speaking at a meeting of Russian and French entrepreneurs in the Black Sea resort Sochi, which is hosting an international investment forum.

Some European Union members had pressed for sanctions against Russia for its "disproportionate" use of force against Georgia last month. Some considered withdrawing the alliance's support in its World Trade Organization accession talks in a bid to force Russia to pull out troops from Georgia.

Putin said in late August he saw no advantages to WTO membership and Russia should suspend some commitments made during the entry talks.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov also said he saw no prospect of joining the global trade body within the next 12 months as initially expected. He said talks will continue but Russia will terminate some of the trade agreements it reached with the WTO.

Russia's top WTO negotiator announced the resumption of talks earlier this week after they collapsed in late July over several stumbling blocks.

Russia said it had to respond to Georgian aggression and end massacre and destruction in South Ossetia as Tbilisi tried to bring the breakaway region under central control by force. Moscow later recognized two Georgian rebel regions as independent states.

Putin told entrepreneurs on Saturday that Russia has remained open to close international cooperation, which must be founded on "respect for a partner and mutual interests."

Russia is the only major world economy still outside the WTO although it began talks in 1995.


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