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Russian, Yemeni leaders to talk military ties, trade in Moscow


MOSCOW, February 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Yemeni counterpart Ali Abdallah Salah will discuss military and trade cooperation, as well as tackling piracy and terrorism at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

"The sides will consider a number of new projects in the sphere of military and technical cooperation which is an important direction in bilateral ties and are strictly implemented within the framework of international law," a Kremlin source said.

Yemeni Ambassador to Russia Mohammed al-Hilali told RIA Novosti the country is interested in "restoring military and technical cooperation with Russia." He said 90% of the country's military hardware and aircraft used by the Yemeni Armed Forces were made in the former Soviet Union.

The ambassador also said Yemen and Russia are currently in "serious talks" to reach an agreement on the maintenance of military hardware, component supplies and training of Yemeni military personnel in Russia in an effort to ensure the army is capable of "defending the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The talks will also focus on "boosting trade and economic and investment cooperation," the source said. Special attention will be paid to participation by Russian companies in major projects in Yemen's electric power industry, oil and gas sector and irrigation, he said.

Yemen's finance minister, Numan al-Suhaibi, was in Russia last week to meet with his Russian counterpart, Alexei Kudrin. The ambassador said they discussed the possibility of writing off Yemen's debt to Russia, adding that the "Russian side promised to look into the issue and if possible would give a positive answer."

Trade between Russia and Yemen hit around $130 million in 2008. Yemen exports coffee and fishery products to Russia, while Moscow exports cars, equipment and grain.

The international agenda for the talks will also include "boosting international efforts in the interests of restoring the peace process and reaching a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement."

Yemen supported Russia's aims of convening a Middle East peace conference in Moscow later this year, the ambassador said adding that "Yemen's position on the Middle East fully coincides with the position of our Russian friends."

The presidents are also due to discuss measures to counteract terrorism and anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden. According to the UN, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008, resulting in combined ransom payouts of around $150 million.

This is the fifth official visit by a Yemeni president to Russia, and the first since 2004. The visit is part of the president's international tour, which started with his trip to Syria on Monday.

After Russia, the Yemeni leader is expected to visit Tajikistan and Indonesia.

Moscow and Sanaa signed their first friendship agreement on trade in 1928 and set up diplomatic ties in 1955.

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