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Poland to resume energy projects with Lithuania that had stalled under previous government

Nov 30, 2007 - The Associated Press

VILNIUS, Lithuania - Poland's new government hopes to forge ahead with two energy projects with Lithuania that stalled under the previous government, its prime minister said Friday.

Donald Tusk, visiting Lithuania on his first trip abroad since taking office, assured Poland's neighbor to the north that his priorities include the two regional projects. One is a plan to connect Lithuania's electricity network with Poland's and the other is the construction of a nuclear power plant in Lithuania with the involvement of the other two Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia.

"There is no disagreement or unanswered questions left. Both projects ... are very important to our countries," Tusk told a news conference.

Lithuania's electricity grid is not linked to the rest of the European Union's network, even though it joined the EU in 2004. The Baltic state is due to shut down its existing nuclear power plant in 2009. That could leave it more dependent on electricity imports from Russia - a situation it hopes to avoid out of concern that Russia is increasingly prepared to use energy supplies to pressure neighboring countries.

"I have no doubts that we will reach results soon if negotiations continue in this constructive manner," Tusk said.

During his one day visit, Tusk met his counterpart, Gediminas Kirkilas, and President Valdas Adamkus.

Under Tusk's predecessor, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, negotiations on building a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania, together with Estonia and Latvia, had faltered due to differences over how to share the electricity output.

Poland and Lithuania formed a common kingdom in the Middle Ages and have been strategic partners since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

The two countries have been critical of Russia's influence in the region, and Tusk said they would work toward improving ties with Moscow.

"We are aiming at better relations with Russia and are planning to work in this field together," Tusk said.

While in Vilnius, Tusk also planned to visit a cemetery where the heart of the 20th century Polish statesman and military leader Jozef Pilsudski is buried.