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The United States has welcomed an agreement reached by Russia and Georgia to monitor trade, paving the way for Russian membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "The United States applauds the announcement that the governments of Russia and Georgia have come to agreement on an arrangement for monitoring trade between their two countries."

The Swiss-mediated deal forsees international monitoring of crossborder trade through Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are both backed by Russia.

A deal with Georgia is the last major hurdle to Russian entry in the WTO, which would open up its $1.9 trillion economy and cement its integration into the global trade system two decades after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

Some technical issues remain to be discussed, including a mandate for a company that will monitor trade in the two Georgian rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russian entry could be approved at the December 15 conference of WTO trade ministers in Geneva.

Entry also needs the approval of the Russian parliament, which is controlled by the ruling party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

compiled from agency reports

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