The European Community is considering freeing more than $1.5 billion in blocked aid to the Soviet Union following assurances Moscow seeks a negotiated settlement with the Baltic republics, officials said.

"We are looking at a de-escalation, an easing" of tensions with the Kremlin, Belgian Foreign Minister Mark Eyskens said Tuesday.Soviet military action against Latvia and Lithuania in January left 22 people dead, prompting the EC ministers last month to freeze talks on a technical aid program worth about $540 million.

The European Parliament - the EC's legislative body - froze $1 billion in food aid to the Soviet Union.

In Strasbourg, France, the budget committee of the European Parliament voted to release the suspended Soviet food aid program. Passage in Thursday's plenary session was likely.

The 12 EC foreign ministers will review the situation in the Baltics during a March 4 meeting, before agreeing to restore normal relations. Talks on technical aid could resume following the meeting, the officials said.

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Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jacques Poos said the ministers had asked the EC's executive commission to review the status of aid to the Kremlin.

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