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SNEGIRYOVKA, Russia (Reuters) - Russia warned the top poultry supplier, the United States, it will insist that Washington observe Moscow's new safety rules, but will accept shipments cleared by the customs before January 19.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Moscow will find alternative poultry import sources if Washington does not stick to the regulations.
The comment adds to challenges that experts from the two countries would have to overcome at talks next week.
Washington has said Russia's new measures would have a "devastating impact" on the U.S. poultry industry and trade, and raise the costs of poultry products for Russian consumers.
"If some foreign suppliers do not want, or are unable to observe our safety demands, then we will have to use other sources (of supply)," Putin said.
"One should not look for any political issues behind this," he told a meeting on prospects of Russian poultry breeding held in a village in northwestern Russia.
Russia's consumer protection watchdog has imposed from January 1 a ban on poultry meat treated with chlorine, a process commonly used in the United States. This put at risk U.S. poultry exports to Russia, which were worth $800 million in 2008.
Putin said that Russia had warned Washington of the new rules well in advance, but the United States did not adopt the necessary measures to remedy the situation.
First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said after the meeting Russia will accept U.S. poultry meat cleared by customs before January 19, the day when a U.S. delegation is expected in Moscow for talks on the new ban.
Zubkov also said Russia was looking for alternative suppliers in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. But he did not name any suppliers.
He also warned domestic producers against raising prices.
"We are working on preventing a deficit and a price leap," Zubkov said.
"We will have to solve certain issues so that Russian producers keep prices unchanged."
Putin said Russian poultry breeders should take steps to increase domestic output and to replace imports.
"Production in the next 4-5 years should not only cover domestic needs, but it should also occupy a significant place on the world market as is the case with grain," Putin said referring to large Russian grains exports.
writing by Aleksandras Budrys