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Russia-Belarus trade could top $32 bln in 2008

VITEBSK, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - Trade between Russia and Belarus could top $32 billion in 2008 compared with over $26 billion in 2007, the secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union State said on Sunday.

Pavel Borodin said mutual trade grew 64.1%, year-on-year, in January-April 2008 to $11.3 billion, adding that the Union State's budget for 2008 had been approved in the amount of 4.61 billion rubles ($195 million).

Russia and Belarus, the ex-Soviet neighbors, have been in talks since 1997 over building a Union State, but the negotiations have been complicated by a host of issues, including energy and financial disputes, as well as division of power.

On January 1, 2007, Russia raised the price of its gas supplies to Belarus to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters from $46.7 in 2006. The increase sparked an energy dispute between the two countries and triggered more accusations in Europe that Russia was using oil and gas as a political weapon.

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