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Belarus President Urges Joint Energy Talks With Ukraine


Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has urged neighboring Ukraine to work jointly to counter the effects of Russia's control of energy in the region.

During a press conference in Minsk Thursday, Mr. Lukashenko said the two countries could coordinate tariff policies in talks with Moscow. Ukraine and Belarus together own nearly all the pipelines that take Russian gas to western European markets.

The Belarusian president said the two countries could pursue energy cooperation next week in Belarus during the summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a grouping of ex-Soviet republics.

Belarus's overture toward Ukraine is unusual because ties with the pro-western government in Kiev have been damaged by Mr. Lukashenko's accusations against the West and suppression of dissent at home.

Relations with Moscow, however, have become increasingly strained since Moscow announced plans to sharply increase energy prices beginning next year.

Russia and Belarus have traditionally had strong relations, and have military ties. Despite tensions over gas deliveries and the future of the close union Belarus and Russia pledged a decade ago to create, Moscow has supported the authoritarian rule of Mr. Lukashenko since he came to power in 1994.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.

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