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Biden heads to Moldova after Russia trip

CHISINAU, Mar 11 – US Vice President Joe Biden was expected Friday in Moldova to signal Washington\’s support for democratic and economic 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 itself out of a protracted political and economic crisis.

Biden will also meet local residents and is expected to find time for some wine-tasting in an apparent effort to lend support to the country\’s ambition to raise its profile as a wine-exporting nation.

"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 with strong cultural ties to Russia, 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.

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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.

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