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EU-Russia Summit to Focus on Energy Issues

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to assure European Union leaders that his country is a reliable trading partner, following a brief disruption of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and Europe in January.

Mr. Putin's comments came Thursday as he hosted a one-day Russian-EU summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.  European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel were among key European participants.

The Russian president stressed his country's reliability as a trading partner that is committed to preventing a recurrence of the gas cut-off.  That brief crisis was triggered when a quarrel between Russia and Ukraine over prices sharply reduced the flow of gas to western Europe.

The leaders also were to sign deals making short-stay visas for travel between Europe and Russia easier to obtain.

Participants also reviewed a new framework agreement with Russia.  The current agreement expires next year.

Analysts had described the meeting as a chance for Mr. Putin to ease European gas supply concerns ahead of the summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies plus Russia.  Mr. Putin will host that meeting in St. Petersburg in July.

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

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