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Latvia: Rights Of Russian Minority Will Be Protected

Kyiv, 9 May 1998 (RFE/RL) - Latvian Finance Minister Roberts Zile told the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's board meeting in Kyiv today that Riga is committed to protecting the rights of its Russian minority.

Zile made the remark in response to concerns raised by EBRD delegates about Latvia's treatment of ethnic Russians.

Zile says it is in Riga's best interest to respect the requests of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the issue. He says Latvia wants to be a member of the European Union and can fulfill the OSCE requests. He also said that he hopes Moscow will allow the issue to be "resolved in a civilized way."

Meanwhile, regarding financial issues, Zile says Latvia has no plans to switch its informal currency peg to the Euro after the launch of the common currency at the beginning of next year.

Zile says Latvia will adjust its currency basket when the Euro replaces the Deutschmark and French fran. But he says the U.S. dollar will remain an important part of the currency basket because much of Latvia's trade with Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States is conducted in dollars.

Zile also noted that the largest Latvian commercial banks are starting negotiations about possible mergers with Estonian and Lithuanian banks. He refused to comment on whether he thought this development was good or bad.