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Dzurinda: Slovakia unites with US, Russia

PRIME Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said that the Bush-Putin summit gives Slovakia a chance to unite with the US and Russia on important issues such as democracy, terrorism and weapons proliferation. He also said that the event is "proof that even small countries can be of international importance".

At a February 20 press conference, Dzurinda outlined some of the topics he intends to raise with Presidents George W Bush and Vladimir Putin during their official visits on February 23 and February 25, respectively.

Dzurinda wants to talk with Bush mainly about global US policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Ukraine.

He also wants to discuss the success of Slovakia's economic reforms, including possible future foreign direct investment in the country's burgeoning high tech sector.

Finally, Dzurinda wants impress upon Bush the importance of Slovak and American youth getting to know each other in student exchange programmes. In relation to this, the prime minister will raise the issue of US visa requirements for Slovak citizens.

"I am sure President Bush will understand what it means when we talk about the freedom to travel. However, I also understand that we have to respect issues stemming from September 11."

After Bush and Putin meet on February 24, Putin will stay in Slovakia the following day for an official visit to Slovakia.

"This is evidence of the long-lasting, positive relationship between Slovakia and Russia," Dzurinda said.

The economy is expected to dominate the talks between Dzurinda and Putin. Currently, Slovakia has a negative trade balance with Russia, importing more goods than exports, and Dzurinda wants to turn that balance around.

Dzurinda also wants to reassure Russia that Slovakia's reasons for joining NATO was solely for security purposes and was not directed against Russia.

"[NATO membership] was to ensure that Slovakia can develop in a positive and secure environment," he said.

Finally, Dzurinda and Putin will spend time remembering the end of World War II at the war memorial in Slavin. Dzurinda said he intends to express Slovak gratitude to Russia for helping free Slovakia from the Nazis.

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