Russia has yet to reach agreements with four countries on its bid to join the World Trade Organization, a top negotiator at the WTO talks said Monday, according to RIA Novosti.

      The United States, Costa Rica, Georgia, and Moldova could block Russia`s bid to join the largest international trade body if bilateral agreements are not reached, Maxim Medvedkov, who heads the trade talks department at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, said at a business conference in western Siberia.

      "We are working closely with the United States," Medvedkov said, adding that the main obstacle was Russia`s use of veterinary measures to prevent the contamination of pork.

      He said veterinary control measures applied by Russia are different from those used in the U.S., and that Russian experts planned to study the American system and decide whether it is appropriate for Russia.

      "This issue turned out to be the major stumbling block at the negotiations, and if we solve this problem we will be able to reach agreement on other WTO accession issues," said Medvedkov.

      He also said Georgia had recently withdrawn its signature from a protocol on Russia`s WTO bid, until Russia lifted its "discriminatory" customs regime on Georgian exports.

      "Our Georgian colleagues are concerned about three things: first - the existing ban on exports of wine produce to Russia; second - the protection of its trademarks; and third - the closure of Russian customs offices on the border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia [two breakaway regions in Georgia]," Medvedkov said.

      Costa Rica and Moldova could also block Russia`s WTO bid. The Central American country is insisting on a sharp reduction in Russian duties on raw sugar imports, and the former Soviet republic is concerned about its exports of wine and crops to Russia, as well as the VAT it pays on Russian natural gas.

      "That`s about it. This list would be closed if Ukraine does not join the WTO by that time," the official said. "We are not planning to compete with Ukraine. The quicker it joins the WTO, the better, because we are not satisfied with its trade regime."

      But he said Ukraine was eager to join the organization before Russia to solve a number of trade issues with its neighbor, in particular the price of natural gas, an issue that provoked a bitter price row between the countries last winter.