Biden arrives in Moldova after Russia trip

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US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Moldova on Friday to signal Washington's support for pro-Western reforms in Europe's poorest country as he wraps up his three-nation European tour.

Biden will spend several hours in the capital Chisinau where he will meet the country's pro-Western leaders in a show of support for the Chisinau government's aspirations for European integration and efforts to pull the country out of a protracted political and economic crisis.

"This visit is extremely important for Moldova," Prime Minister Vladimir Filat told reporters ahead of Biden's arrival. "Thanks to Biden's visit, Moldova will receive support regardless of who will be in power."

A Romanian-speaking country, Moldova was part of Romania between 1918 and World War II when it was annexed into the Soviet Union by Stalin.

Moldova's openly pro-Western government, which has ruled the country since ending over eight years of Communist Party rule in 2009, has a complicated relationship with Moscow which is rankled by Chisinau's drive for European integration.

Filat said he and Biden would discuss Moldova's ongoing democractic and economic reforms, European integration efforts and talks on Transdniestr, a small separatist pro-Russian territory of about 500,000 people in eastern Moldova which is not internationally recognised.

Moldova remains mired in a political crisis after the communists were ousted from government in 2009 elections that followed bloody riots in Chisinau known as the "Twitter Revolution".

Elections last November failed to overcome a stalemate in parliament between pro-Western liberals and the pro-Moscow communists.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday, acting president and parliament speaker Marian Lupu said Biden's visit would help reinvigorate foreign investment and facilitate exports of Moldovan products.

Biden, who will also meet local residents, had been expected to visit the famous Cricova wine cellars just outside Chisinau for some wine-tasting but will now be unable to make it due to his jam-packed schedule, Moldova government officials said.

Instead, Biden's wife Jill and granddaughter Finnegan will visit the cellars accompanied by Filat's wife Sanda and daughter Justyna in an apparent effort to highlight the country's ambition to raise its profile as a wine-exporting nation.

© 2011 AFP

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