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Estonia: U.S. Officials Observe End Of Direct U.S. Aid

Tallinn, 16 September 1996 (RFE/RL) - The United States and Estonia are today marking the end of U.S. government assistance programs for the Baltic nation.

Estonian President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi, and U.S. Agency for International Development official Thomas Dine are expected to attend a ceremony today in Tallinn. U.S. officials have called the gathering a "graduation ceremony" to mark Estonia's exit from direct U.S. aid programs.

U.S. aid to Estonia totalled about $50 million per year, including agricultural assistance.

U.S. aid official Leah Levin told our correspondent last week that Estonia has progressed to the point where it no longer requires aid under programs established by the U.S. Congress to help former Communist countries make the transition to free market economies.

Estonia is the first Eastern European country to take this step, she said, and added that Estonia and the United States now have a relationship based on shared values, mutual security interests, and increased trade and investment.