MOSCOW (B)--The Russian government is not planning to request any food aid from the United States, an aide to Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said June 8. He denied some media reports that the issue had been discussed during the recent visit of U.S. President Bill Clinton to Russia.

"The government has no such plans and the recent reports have been provoked by some rumor makers," Alexander Kovalyov told BridgeNews.

He said there were no economic reasons behind such requests.

The Agriculture Ministry expects farmers to harvest at least 70 million tonnes of grain in pure weight this year, up from 54.6 million in 1999.

Russia's annual requirements are seen at about 72 million to 74 million tonnes but the government is adamant all food imports should be made through commercial channels.

Kovalyov also denied reports that the issue on possible U.S. food aid was discussed during the recent visit of Clinton to Russia.

"The talks with Clinton concentrated on important issues such as amending the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty. And the Russian government was not in a position to discuss such things as food aid, even if we wanted," Kovalyov said.

The U.S. government provided a 3.1-million tonne food aid package, part of which was allocated under long-term loan terms, at the end of 1998 after a record low grain harvest in Russia.

Russia requested another 5.1-million tonne aid package in September 1999 but the U.S. government agreed to provide only 300,000 tonnes of milling wheat and 200,000 tonnes of other products, to be distributed among the needy layers of the population, and 20,000 tonnes of seeds.

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