Biden leaves for tour of Finland, Russia and Moldova

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US Vice President Joe Biden late Sunday left for a tour of Finland, Russia and Moldova to consult Washington's partners on global and regional issues and bolster a "reset" of ties with the Kremlin.

"In each country, the vice president will meet with key leaders to discuss the full range of bilateral, regional, and international issues," the White House said in a statement announcing Biden's departure.

In Helsinki, which will be the first stop in the trip, Biden will be consulting with Finnish partners on "shared regional and global priorities," officials said.

"In Moscow, he will seek to build on the 'reset' in US-Russian relations, with a focus on ways to further the prosperity of our two countries," the statement added, without giving precise dates for the stops on the three-nation visit.

On Thursday, Biden will deliver a speech on US-Russia relations at Moscow State University.

"In Chisinau, he will signal our support for ongoing democratic and economic reforms and for Moldova's aspirations for European integration," the White House said.

The United States last year hailed Moldova's parliamentary election as another step forward in the former Soviet Republic's democratic development.

Russian news agencies quoting diplomatic sources had previously said that Biden will be in Moscow to prepare for an eventual visit by President Barack Obama.

The White House has declined to say if Obama is expecting to return to Russia this year, in a visit that would symbolically cap the drive to pass a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which came into force this month.

Obama last visited Moscow in July 2009, when he and President Dmitry Medvedev signed a landmark declaration pledging to reach the new deal cutting nuclear arms, which has been ratified by legislatures in both countries.

Medvedev visited the United States in June last year and held talks with Obama in Washington after visiting California's Silicon Valley, and the two leaders frequently meet in one-on-one sessions at international summits.

© 2011 AFP

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