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Russia May Expand U.S. Poultry Ban

April 8, 2002

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s agriculture minister emphasized Monday that Moscow is still considering extending a ban on U.S. poultry imports over concerns about food safety, despite comments by U.S. officials that the restrictions would soon be lifted.

``Undoubtedly, we are interested in broadening trade and economic relations with the United States, but there are principles that go beyond these interests, namely food quality and the health of Russian citizens,″ Alexei Gordeyev said, according to the Interfax news agency.

U.S. and Russian officials signed an agreement late last month addressing Russia’s concerns, and U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow has said the import ban would be lifted before Wednesday. Under the agreement, the United States agreed to tougher controls on veterinary documents and measures against companies that exported salmonella-tainted chicken.

But Gordeyev underlined Monday that Russia has not yet received a report on implementation of the agreement _ a crucial requirement for imports to resume.

``Only after the protocol provisions have been implemented will Russia make a corresponding decision,″ he said.

Russia banned U.S. chicken March 10, citing sanitary concerns. The ban alarmed U.S. poultry producers in 38 states, as exports to Russia bring them $600 million to $700 million a year. The issue also marred U.S.-Russian relations ahead of a presidential summit next month.

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