Belarus Moves to Heal Rift, Supports Ban on Foodstuffs


MINSK - Belarus moved to calm a new dispute over trade issues with Russia on Wednesday, supporting a Russian ban on some of its foodstuffs by adding more of its own plants to Moscow's list and promising to reopen a closed pipeline.

The neighbors, formally linked by a nebulous post-Soviet "union treaty," renewed their trade war Tuesday after several weeks of calm. Belarus shut down a Russian diesel pipeline, and Russia banned some Belarussian meat imports.

But Minsk did not dispute Moscow's reason for the food ban.

"Specialists from the Belarussian veterinary service will quickly examine the discovery of harmful substances in products from these plants," the government said in a statement. It named one meat, one dairy and one cooking-oil factory in Belarus in addition to the two meat plants earlier blacklisted by Russia.

Minsk also denied any link between Tuesday's meat ban and the Belarussian decision - announced the same day - to close a Russian pipeline that carries 10 million tons of diesel fuel via Belarus to Latvia.

The emergencies ministry called any suggestion that the two events were linked "illogical and out of place" but said the pipeline would be reopened Thursday.

Belarus' conciliatory action belied previous angry moves. Last month, it condemned an almost total Russian ban on its dairy products, saying it was unfounded and calling it a "warning signal" from the Russians.

Belarus repeated its position that the pipeline had 150 "critical defects" but flows would be restored once they were fixed. Russian pipeline operator Transnefteprodukt said its closure, ordered during maintenance, had been unexpected.



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