Russia’s economic minister said on Thursday that the country would cut preferences given to U.S. meat imports if Washington fails to allow Russia to join the World Trade Organization.

Economics Minister German Gref said in a statement on the Economic Development and Trade Ministry’s website that he has sent a letter of warning to US authorities. The US is currently one of the only countries delaying Russia’s accession to the WTO.

In case of unsuccessful October consultations in Geneva, Russia will be forced to return to the positions that it held before agreements were reached on the trade of meat until Russia joins the WTO, the statement said, referring to Gref's letter.

A bilateral agreement between the U.S. President George Bush and Russia’s Vladimir Putin wasn’t reached at this year’s G8 summit in St. Petersburg. Russia hosted and chaired the G8 summit for the first time this year.

Gref said that Russia intends to “defend its interests” and will take a firm stand on the matter. Bush and Putin have agreed to allow Russian inspectors to US pork and beef processing factories to examine the conditions sanitary conditions.

Russia is the largest economy outside the 149-nation WTO, and its attempts to join have been delayed in an attempt to reach a bilateral agreement with the United States, the remaining major country whose approval it needs before joining the organization.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, Russia is one the main importers of US poultry, importing a total of 742,390 tons of chickens in 2005, representing a nine percent rise from 2004.