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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gore, Chernomyrdin Celebrate Space Pact

The meeting between U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin got a boost Thursday as the two watched the linkup of the United States' Atlantis shuttle with Russia's Mir space station.


"This is a great metaphor for our work," said Gore, as he and Chernomyrdin shook hands and applauded while watching the hookup on a big screen set up in the President Hotel, where the pair are presiding over the fifth session of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission.


The space docking was an early project of the commission, which was set up in 1993 to foster economic and technological cooperation. In the 18 months since its inception, it has helped develop agreements on a wide range of topics, from trade and investment to health and the environment.


"It was very satisfying to work so hard on this at our first meeting and to now watch this milestone be set," said Gore, after watching the docking.


The results of the present round of talks are not expected to be quite so spectacular, but officials are optimistic that some progress can be made on a range of issues.


Chernomyrdin, in opening the session, hinted at the political crisis brewing within the Russian government.


"We receive the American delegation in Moscow at a very difficult time for the government of Russia. I hope that productive work during this session will help to support our government in the internal political dialogue."


Chernomyrdin faces a second no-confidence vote in the Duma on Saturday. Although the crisis seems to have been largely defused by agreements between the president and parliamentary leaders, the political scene is still volatile.


High on the commission's agenda will be the delicate question of Russia's proposed sale of nuclear reactors to Iran, a deal that the United States has objected to strongly. On the eve of Gore's visit, Georgy Kaurov, a spokesman for the Nuclear Power Ministry, said Russia has no plans to reverse its contract with Iran.


A State Department official said prospects for resolution are "rather small" at the current session, but added, "I think the objective is to get it away from the glare of the spotlight and to have a discussion in a calmer setting."


Among the agreements expected to be signed Friday is a long-awaited deal to drill for oil and gas off Sakhalin Island.


Gore met with officials of the American Chamber of Commerce for lunch Thursday. The officials briefed the vice president on specific impediments to foreign investment in Russia, among which were taxes and corruption.


"The vice president listened closely and asked good and perceptive questions," said Peter Charow, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce.