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Putin to Press for Increased Ties with Slovakia

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will press for expanding trade and economic ties with Slovakia during his visit to the former communist region.

Following Thursday's meeting with President Bush in Bratislava, Mr. Putin will hold talks with Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic and other officials during his two-day visit.

Mr. Putin told Slovak media Tuesday relations between the two countries were improving and in keeping with Moscow's strategy of increasing ties with countries throughout Central Europe.

He said Moscow valued cooperation in the gas and oil sectors, adding that Russian companies were interested in helping Slovakia further develop its nuclear power industry.

Mr. Putin's visit is the first by a Russian president to the country since Slovakia and the Czech Republic were formed in 1993 with the peaceful split of Czechoslovakia.