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Russia: Clinton Supports Additional Aid

Washington, 1 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton says Washington would support obtaining extra funding from international lending agencies to help Russia overcome its financial problems.

Clinton made the remarks in a written statement issued at the White House on Sunday. The president said the U.S. "endorses additional conditional financial support from the international financial institutions, as necessary, to promote stability, structural reforms and growth in Russia."

The two pivotal international lending agencies are the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Former Russian reform chief Anatoly Chubais held talks with top-level U.S. officials in Washington on Friday. However, U.S. officials said following the talks that he did not ask for extra funds.

In his statement, Clinton also welcomed Russia's new economic program for 1998 that includes cracking down on tax evaders, reducing government spending and continued privatization. Clinton said: "Implementation of this program will strengthen the fundamentals of the Russian economy and foster maintenance of a stable ruble."

Russia also received praise from the IMF's regional representative, John Olding-Smee. After holding talks in Moscow, he commended Russia's new government of young reformers for devising an austerity plan.

The IMF has a $9.2 billion multi-year loan package for Russia. Moscow is seeking the release of the latest tranche of about $670 million.

Russia has been experiencing financial problems in recent weeks, including a sharp downturn of its stock market and a miners strike.

Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko told Russian television during the weekend the latest financial crisis came as no surprise but said the severity was unexpected.

Kiriyenko said a cause of the crisis was the sharp fall in the world prices for oil and natural gas, Russia's main exports.

Kiriyenko explained: "This led to a drop in currency receipts and the worsening of the financial position of the leading companies, the main taxpayers."

The prime minister also blamed the impact of the Asian financial crisis on the Russian economy along with social unrest such as the miners strike.

Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin had a telephone conversation last week about Russia's economy. The White House said Clinton reaffirmed his support to Yeltsin about Russia's continued economic reforms and that Yeltsin expressed confidence in his reformist Cabinet.