U.S. Senate leader Bill Frist (right) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (epa)
April 10, 2006 -- A top U.S. lawmaker says Russia must take steps to improve its democracy record before Washington approves its bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Bill Frist, the leader of the majority Republicans in the U.S. Senate, made his remarks in Moscow after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Frist said the United States generally favors Russia's admission to the WTO. But he said Washington would not give final approval until Moscow shows it is willing to liberalize financial services and relax restrictions on the media and nongovernmental organizations.
Frist said Russia's position on Iran's controversial nuclear program also will have an impact on the U.S. decision.
An exhibition of the history of the WTO in Singapore in 1996 (courtesy photo)
Armenia: Joined on 5 February 2003.
Croatia: Joined on 30 November 2000.
Georgia: Joined on 14 June 2000.
Kyrgyzstan: Joined on 20 December 1998.
Macedonia: Joined on 4 April 2003.
Moldova: Joined on 26 July 2001.
Romania: Joined on 1 January 1995.
Countries That Are Not Yet WTO Members:
Afghanistan: Submitted its application in November 2004.
Azerbaijan: Submitted its application in June 1997.
Bosnia-Herezgovina: Submitted its application in May 1999.
Belarus: Submitted its application in September 1993.
Iran: Submitted its application in July 1996.
Iraq: Submitted its application in September 2004.
Kazakhstan: Submitted its application in January 1996.
Russia: Submitted its application in June 1993.
Serbia and Montenegro: Submitted separate applications in December 2004.
Tajikistan: Submitted its application in May 2001.
Ukraine: Submitted its application in November 1993.
Uzbekistan: Submitted its application in December 1994.
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For an exclusive RFE/RL interview with former WTO head MICHAEL MOORE,click here.