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Nicaragua, Russia Sign Trade Agreements

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says Moscow will move to strengthen its ties with Nicaragua, as well as other Central and South American countries.

Mr. Medvedev spoke Thursday as he hosted visiting Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in Moscow, where the two sides signed accords on agriculture, space, telecommunications and energy.

New canal discussed

The two presidents discussed a draft agreement on visa-free travel between their countries, and Mr. Medvedev expressed interest in a Nicaraguan proposal to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with a new canal.

Mr. Medvedev also praised Nicaragua's decision to recognize two Russian-backed breakaway regions of Georgia - South Ossetia and Abkhazia - as independent countries.

Nicaragua supported Russian military push in South Ossetia

Nicaragua is the only country other than Russia to recognize the independence of the areas after Russian troops swept into Georgia in August following a Georgian military push to regain control of South Ossetia.

Russian forces continue to occupy the two areas.

Mr. Ortega says he would like to visit the breakaway regions, but did not set a firm date. Likewise, Mr. Medvedev agreed to make a state visit to Nicaragua.

Last week, three Russian warships visited Nicaragua and delivered about $200,000 worth of computers, medicines and other supplies.

Nicaragua's interest in a new canal would pose a symbolic challenge to the U.S.-built Panama Canal, which cemented U.S. influence in the region in the early 20th century.

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