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Russia, U.S. Meet About Agriculture

October 13, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. and Russian officials met Tuesday to discuss the possibility of American agricultural assistance to Russia. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said it was in the U.S. national interest to help the ailing country.

``It’s no secret the Russians are talking with us and other countries, EU (European Union) particularly, about agricultural issues, both trade and assistance packages,″ Glickman said Tuesday. ``It is in our interest as a nation to provide help and assistance. We intend to do so, but I don’t want to prejudge how it comes out.″

Glickman said he discussed the issue with the Russian ambassador last week.

Russia, which is expecting one of its lowest harvests in 40 years because of drought, is reportedly seeking up to 3.3 million tons of donated grain from the United States.

Former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said Monday that his government is also seeking humanitarian aid from the United States. The Russian prime minister has already turned to the European Union for food and medical aid.

Glickman would not comment about the specifics of the negotiations but said, ``We can sell them or transfer to them almost anything they want.″

``Assuming the Russians are interested, they will let us know what their desires are and then we’ll respond to them based upon what we’ve got,″ he said.

This is the first time in years that the Russians have had to look for significant food aid from abroad. The United States provided food aid to Russia in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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