Russian PM arrives in Vietnam

Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov began a two-day official visit to Vietnam on Thursday aimed at strengthening trade and the two countries' strategic partnership.

Fradkov, who arrived in Hanoi overnight, was given a red-carpet welcome by Vietnamese counterpart Phan Van Khai at the Presidential Palace.

The two men reviewed a military honor guard before heading behind closed doors for private talks.

During the joint news briefing following the 1 1/2 hour-long discussions, Khai told Fradkov that his visit will serve to promote "a strategic partnership, long-term stability that serves the interests of both sides."

Khai said the two prime ministers also discussed measures to boost bilateral trade and investment.

"Bilateral trade which topped more than US$1 billion in 2005 was very low compared with the two countries' potential," he said. "Hopefully, bilateral trade can be raised to several billion dollars in coming years."

Khai said he also would like to see much bigger Russian investment in the country. Currently Russia ranks 20th among foreign investors in Vietnam with some US$280 million ( Ђ 235 million) worth of investment in 47 projects, reports the AP.

I.L.