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US Senator Discusses Iran, WTO with Russian Foreign Minister


U.S. Senate majority leader Bill Frist says Washington's support for Russian membership in the World Trade Organization will depend on Russia's stance on political and diplomatic issues including Iran's nuclear program.

The senator made his comments in Moscow after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Frist said Russia's position on democratic issues such as freedom of the press and non-governmental organizations will affect whether Congress lifts the Soviet-era restrictions and establishes normal trade relations with Russia.

Frist also said Russia's position on Iran's nuclear program will affect decisions by American lawmakers. Russia has resisted a U.S. push for U.N. measures against Iran.

Russia has been holding WTO membership talks since 1993, but has yet to reach agreement with several members, including the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused Washington of holding up membership.

The trade restrictions were imposed in 1974 under the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment that linked trade relations with the former Soviet Union to that country's easing of limitations on human rights, especially those involving emigration. The legislation remained in effect for the Soviet successor states.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AFP.

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