Romanian government officials have made conflicting statements on the purpose of a meeting they had with an influential Russian consultant with close Kremlin ties who visited Romania in April.

While a Liberal senator and former member of the Government was quoted in today’s edition of the Cotidianul newspaper that the meeting with Russian ‘mason’ Alexander Kondyakov was linked to preparations for the general elections due to take place in Romania in 2008, PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu, also a Liberal, rejected the claims today.

The Romanian media has been investigating the Kondyakov visit to Romania in mid-April since Friday, when newspaper Romania Libera published an interview with suspended President Traian Basescu, who mentioned Kondyakov’s meeting with Romanian government officials prior to a Parliament vote that had him suspended as head of state.

Basescu has been insisting that the new government in Bucharest was leaning towards Russia in its international policies.

Kondyakov was presented by the Romanian media as a top Russian mason with an influential consulting company and close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Liberal Senator Radu Stroe was quoted in Cotidianul newspaper today as saying that the meeting - which brought together Kondyakov, PM Tariceanu, Stroe and another Romanian politician, Cozmin Gusa - was focused on a presentation of the Russian’s lobby consultancy firm “not for the Romanian Government, but for PNL”, the Tariceanu’s National Liberal Party.

“He sensed it was a good moment, as elections will take place in 2008” in Romania, Stroe said.

But today, Tariceanu was quoted by the NewsIn news agency as dismissing Stroe’s statement. According to the prime minister, the purpose of the meeting was related to the economic relations between the two countries.

According to Tariceanu, Stroe misunderstood what it was all about because he was not proficient in English. And Tariceanu said Romania was keeping its strong pro-Western view but that this didn’t meant it should have tensed relations with Russia.

For his part, Kondyakov told BBC on Monday that he was in Romania on April 11-12 to establish business relations for two Russian moguls he represents - Oleg Deripaska and Igor Djiudjin. He dismissed suspicions of involvement in the suspension of Romanian President Traian Basescu.