Traditional friendly relations have linked Russia and Lebanon for two centuries already, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri told a RIA Novosti correspondent before leaving for a working visit to Moscow. He recalled that the first Russian consulate opened in Beirut in 1839. Hariri pointed out Russia's and Lebanon's common viewpoints on many political issues. The Lebanese delegation is to discuss with Russian top officials the Russian-Lebanese bilateral relations and ways of their economic development in all areas, particularly in trade and economic spheres, Hariri said. The joint intergovernmental commission was formed and agreements on boosting trade and economic cooperation were signed in 1997, Hariri noted. Nevertheless the trade exchange between the two countries has not yet reached the level each country needs, he believes. The Lebanese Prime Minister is sure his visit to Russia starting on Wednesday will allow this sphere of cooperation to reach a higher level. According to him, an agreement on cultural and scientific cooperation for 2001-2003 is to be signed. Three thousand of Lebanese students study in Russian higher education institutions, the prime minister said. Ten thousand of the Lebanese graduated from Russian higher education institutions and are now taking an active part in the development of their country. The present international situation, particularly after the terrorist attacks on the USA and the beginning of the international anti-terrorism campaign dictate the necessity to consult Russia playing an important and constructive role in the world, Hariri noted. He also believes Russia, as a co-sponsor of the peace-making process in the Middle East, should not only proceed with its efforts but also boost them in coordination with the USA in order to overcome the deadlock and to stop Israeli military actions against Palestinians. The Arab countries and Lebanon give a high appraisal of Russia' standpoint insisting on the observation of the international law and the execution of the resolutions of the UN Security Council, Hariri stressed. It opens the right way for the Arab-Israeli settlement. The Premier expects to discuss with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials the international anti-terrorist campaign and the war in Afghanistan.
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