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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 15:52 GMT
Russia and Italy back gas accord
Vladimir Putin and Romano Prodi in Rome, 13 March 2007
Mr Putin and Romano Prodi focused on energy matters
Italy's Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, and Russian President Vladimir Putin have finalised details of a major gas deal between the two countries.

The agreement between Russia's Gazprom and Italy's ENI will give Russia the right to sell gas directly to Italian consumers from next month.

At their meeting in the Adriatic city of Bari, the two men also called for talks on a new Russia-EU partnership.

The meeting came on the second and final day of Mr Putin's visit to Italy.

On Tuesday, Mr Putin met Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican for the first time.

The Pope and Mr Putin held "cordial" private talks lasting about 25 minutes, speaking mostly in German, Vatican officials said.

They discussed ways to improve relations between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, dogged by long-standing differences.

Jet accord

Energy and security were high on the agenda for the summit between Mr Putin and Mr Prodi, aimed at boosting economic links between Russia and Italy.

In November last year, Gazprom signed a deal with the Italian energy company, ENI, giving the Russian state monopoly a foothold in southern Europe.

As well as reviewing this deal, officials and businessmen from the two countries signed a series of other agreements, including a deal between Italy's Alenia and Russia's Sukhoi to build and market a new medium-range jet plane.

The two leaders issued a joint statement saying the accords represented "significant steps" towards boosting bilateral relations.

They added that they wanted talks between the EU and Moscow on a new strategic partnership agreement to begin as soon as possible.

An EU-Russia summit in Helsinki last November ended without progress on such a pact, after Poland vetoed the talks in protest at Russia's ban on imports of Polish meat.


SEE ALSO
Putin in landmark Vatican visit
13 Mar 07 |  Europe
Gazprom export sales rise by 43%
17 Jan 07 |  Business

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