EU Deal Sought By Russia

Russia is seeking to conclude an interim agreement with the European Union that would implement economic aspects of a wide-ranging treaty signed by President Boris Yeltsin in Corfu earlier this year, senior EU and Russian officials said Friday.

"We have had new suggestions from the Russian government to put it (the interim agreement) into effect as soon as possible," said Horst Krenzler, director general of the European Commission. "We hope the interim agreement will come into effect early next spring."

The Corfu agreement, signed in June, would lift many trade barriers on the sale of Russian goods to Europe and encourage Western investment in Russia's flagging economy.

An interim pact would allow many of the benefits of the Corfu agreement to come into force before the full treaty is ratified by the Russian and EU governments.

Speaking to reporters after an EU-Russia Joint Committee meeting, Krenzler said discriminatory excise taxes imposed by Russia on imported goods still stood in the way of the agreement.

"For the time being, we're not satisfied," he said, adding that a Russian proposal to phase the taxes out by 1996 was being examined.

A bilateral commission will be formed to discuss this and other outstanding questions.

The EU is by far Russia's biggest trading partner, accounting for some 45 percent of the country's non-CIS trade turnover.