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Moldova: Prime Minister Optimistic About Visit To U.S.

Washington, 9 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Moldovan Prime Minister Dumitru Braghis said Friday (Oct. 6) he is satisfied with his meetings in Washington last week with U.S. government officials.

Braghis told a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office that he is most optimistic about discussions of an economic working group. The committee would explore ways of promoting trade between Moldova and the U.S., and to attract investment in Moldova by American companies.

"Now the republic of Moldova faces some problems here -- in this area, I mean -- and trade promotion and investment promotion is a very important question."

Braghis also pointed to a new agreement with the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank). Under the deal, the bank will consider guaranteeing loans to Moldovan enterprises seeking to develop by buying goods and services from American companies.

"Also very important was [that] we signed this agreement with the Ex-Im Bank, as I told you, an incentive project agreement, which is very important also to develop economic relations between our countries."

The prime minister also said his meetings were positive on issues beyond economics. Braghis indicated support for a quick resolution of the problems in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester. However, he gave no details of the U.S. position.

He was asked about Moldova's difficulty paying for energy, particularly natural gas that is supplied by Russia's Gazprom. Braghis noted that his government has paid 92 percent of its current gas debt owed to Russia as of September 1. But he said his country still has what he called a "historical" gas debt to Gazprom that now amounts to about $50 million.

Braghis said his government's policy is to pay its current gas bills on time in order to keep the "historical" gas debt from growing. So far, he said, Moldova has been successful at this. But he added that this means a large investment in energy.

In the meantime, the prime minister said, he is working to restructure the debt to Gazprom.

Braghis said his delegation met with officials of the World Bank and the IMF to discuss poverty-reduction programs in his country.