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Belarus signals interest in resolving row with Uralkali

A general view of a Uralkali potash mine near the city of Berezniki in the Perm region close to Russia's Ural mountains August 26, 2013. REU
A general view of a Uralkali potash mine near the city of Berezniki in the Perm region close to Russia's Ural mountains August 26, 2013. REU

MINSK/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko signaled to Russian potash producer Uralkali on Friday that he was interested in ending a nine-month dispute that has hurt both sides.

Uralkali, the world's largest potash producer, left a powerful trading joint venture with Belarus in July, triggering a slump in potash prices and a row with Belarus, which eventually led to a change in the company's owners.

"The main thing is that we get out of all this mess together ... with minimum losses," Lukashenko said at a meeting with new Uralkali co-owner Dmitry Mazepin, local state agency Belta reported.

It was the first public meeting between Lukashenko and Mazepin after the Russian tycoon's firm Uralchem bought a stake in Uralkali in late 2013.

"To some extent, it is a special historical meeting after what happened in our relationship with the former shareholders of your company," Lukashenko told Mazepin.

He said Mazepin had come to Minsk to "discuss problems, which still exist", but did not say whether the discussion included the possibility of creating a new trading alliance between Uralkali and Belarus state potash firm Belaruskali. Uralchem could not be reached for further comment.

The conflict has benefited neither potash producers, nor the potash market, Mazepin told Lukashenko.

"I am a businessman, I am not a politician," Mazepin said, according to Belta.

Renewed cooperation between Uralkali and Belaruskali could help both firms and the global market, Uralkali's other co-owner, the Onexim group, has said.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Andrei Makhovsky; editing by Jane Baird)

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