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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
Russia and Italy 'to work closer'
Italy's Romano Prodi, left, talks with Russia's Vladimir Putin
Italy and Russia see two heads as better than one in business
Russia and Italy have agreed to cooperate more closely in their energy and aviation industries.

The announcement came as Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Oil and gas companies Eni and Gazprom, and planemakers Finmeccanica and Sukhoi also talked of future joint projects.

Russia and Italy have been close allies in recent years, something that has benefited both nations, analysts said.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had a good relationship with President Putin and his successor Romano Prodi now seems to be looking to continue the relationship.

"I believe that one of the instruments to move Europe forward is to maintain relations with neighbouring countries," said Mr Prodi, who is on his first trip abroad since defeating Mr Berlusconi in elections earlier this year.

"Relations with Russia are of a priority nature," he added.

Business ties

President Putin was equally optimistic about what the future may hold.

"Italy is one of the principle partners for Russia in Europe," he said.

The two leaders said that their nations were entering a new phase of energy collaboration.

Highlighting a willingness to help each other expand in domestic markets, Gazprom said it would consider giving Eni a stake in its Yuzhno-Russkoye oil fields if it got a piece of the Italian firm's gas distribution business.

Eni's chief executive Paolo Scaroni, who was meeting his counterpart at Gazprom, Alexei Miller, said that there also were another three or four projects his company was interested in working on.

Also on Tuesday, Italian defence and aeronautics company Finmeccanica said it had agreed to build planes with Russia's Sukhoi.

The companies said the deal will see them designing, producing and marketing civilian planes with between 75 and 100 seats.

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