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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stepashin, U.S. Iron Out Kosovo Issues

WASHINGTON -- Many of the differences between Russia and the United States over rebuilding Yugoslavia have been removed, Russia's new prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, said Tuesday after meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Stepashin, trolling for American capital and good will, is offering assurances that his country's rocky economy is on the upswing and that American investors "can come without fear of racketeers."

After breakfast with Gore, Stepashin met with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.

Sitting between Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, with other Republican and Democratic leaders around a U-shaped table, Stepashin talked vigorously in Russian with a translator at his shoulder.

Lott waved off questions from reporters who were ushered out as the formal meeting started in a Senate anteroom.

But Stepashin, talking just outside the Senate chamber where Senator Joseph Biden was urging ratification of the nuclear nonproliferation test ban treaty, said he would take up several issues with President Bill Clinton and Gore later in the day. He mentioned economic relations, Iran, arms treaties and Yugoslavia.

"We have removed many issues that have been there," Stepashin told reporters, referring to differences over how to rebuild after the U.S.-led air war in Yugoslavia. He did not elaborate on what had been resolved.

Stepashin's visit is designed to help overcome the discord stemming from the bombing that ousted Serbian troops from Kosovo. Russia, a traditional Serbian ally, opposed force as a remedy for ethnic violence in the Yugoslav province.

Opening his brief visit with a speech Monday night, the former counterintelligence chief told hundreds of American business executives that accounts of "criminalization" in Russia's transition from state controls were exaggerated.

"Take it with a grain of salt," Stepashin advised at a banquet in a posh hotel near the White House. It was hosted by corporations that see new market opportunities in the vast expanse of Russia as it pursues capitalism and inclusion in the World Trade Organization and other financial groupings.

His two meetings Tuesday with Gore are designed to focus on cooperation in science and space. But the big-ticket item for Russia is the expected approval Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund of a $630 million loan based on its findings that the Russian parliament has moved to adopt Western-style measures to protect foreign investors.

"We will fully implement our obligations," Stepashin said. "Strategically, our main goal is a progression of dynamic reform."