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Gore arrives for talks in Ukraine, plans a visit to Chernobyl N-plant

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Vice President Al Gore arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday for a two-day visit that will take him to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma greeted Gore at the ornate Mariinsky Palace in downtown Kiev, and the two proceeded to a closed-door meeting. Wednesday's talks were expected to focus on economic cooperation.Gore will get a close-up look Thursday at the concrete and steel sarcophagus covering Chernobyl's Reactor No. 4, which was destroyed in the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

He also will hold discussions on a new international effort to raise funds to rebuild the huge shelter, which has been steadily deteriorating and raised concerns that radioactive materials could leak out.

So far, Ukraine has secured less than half of the $758 million needed to repair the sarcophagus.

During his visit to Chernobyl, Gore will stop at Pripyat, a town next to the plant that has been evacuated due to radioactive fallout from the accident.

Gore, who has been involved in environmental issues throughout his political career, chaired an international conference in New York last year on the Chernobyl clean-up.

"Chernobyl was one of the key events of this century that made us realize we are all neighbors . . . on an interlinked planet," the vice president said at the time. "We seek to avoid further tragedy."

Meanwhile, Gore and Kuchma were to co-chair the second meeting of the U.S.-Ukrainian bilateral cooperation commission, which was to examine ways to enhance cooperation and trade, according to U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer.

The United States is Ukraine's largest foreign investor.