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U.S. Commerce Secy says Russia reliable partner
By Karl Emerick Hanuska

MOSCOW, Oct 17 (Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans on Wednesday praised Russia as a reliable U.S. partner and said both countries would reap economic rewards from fast developing ties.

"This is a very important time in the development of the relationship between the United States and Russia -- indeed a very important time as all civilised nations unite in this world," he told a briefing.

Evans, who is winding up his second visit to Moscow in three months, said Russia's rapid response to the September 11 attacks in the United States and its siding with a coalition against terrorism showed it was a reliable U.S. partner.

The atmosphere in U.S.-Russian relations has warmed significantly in recent months after a cool period following U.S. President George W. Bush's inauguration in January.

Evans said that Bush -- who will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekend in China and again next month in the United States -- had found a common language after their June summit in Ljubljiana, Slovenia.

"I am sure that you can see the commitment of both countries to continuing a strong strategic partnership broadening our relationship," Evans said.

He added: "We are certainly committed to it."


Evans, leading a delegation of U.S. corporate leaders on the first high-level trade mission of the Bush administration, was upbeat on progress toward reforming the Russian economy.

He said the United States was "aggressively" supporting Russia's access to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and could be expected to make a decision on recognising the country as a market economy within the next year.

"From the steps that Russia has taken over the last 12-18 months, as well as the steps that they plan to take in ensuing months, it is my belief that Russia is moving toward being one of the leading nations in the international economic community in years to come," Evans said.

He noted that ties between U.S.-Russia were bearing fruit, pointing to key announcements made during his visit.

Among them were plans by Pepsi Co's Frito-Lay snack foods subsidiary for a $40 million plant and a deal between Russian aerospace officials and United Technologies on joint development of a rocket thruster.

Evan's trip also coincided with the announcement of the shipping of the first oil from the Caspian Pipeline Consortium's (CPC) $2.5 billion Kazakhstan-Russia pipeline in which Chevron is lead investor.

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