Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and a group of corporate executives are to tour the Soviet Union this week to discuss improving trade and bolstering the Soviets' lagging oil production. ``There's a tremendous amount to be done,'' Mr. Mosbacher said at a news briefing before the trip. ``They're the biggest oil producer in the world.''

``There are a lot of new methodologies and a lot of new equipment that's been developed in this country over the last decade,'' he said.

Soviet oil production has been hampered by aging equipment and a choking bureaucracy. But US officials say they believe the Soviets can tap into a new source of energy if the US provides them with a mix of management advice, hardware, and pointers on drilling technique.

``They're producing all they can now,'' Mosbacher said. ``There's a good chance some of the group might be going to the oil fields.''

Fifteen influential business executives were to join Mosbacher on the journey, which was scheduled to begin Saturday and was to include a side trip to Helsinki to meet President Bush after his summit with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

The delegation is to return home Sept. 16.

Mosbacher said the trip was being planned before Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, the seizure of the sheikdom's oil fields, and the dramatic increase in world petroleum prices.

``It didn't pop up because of the Iraq crisis,'' he said.

Mosbacher also insisted that promises of technical and economic aid to the Soviets are not a quid pro quo for their cooperation in the UN-sanctioned blockade of Iraq. But he said he appreciated the Soviets' attitude and help. This is part of an ongoing relationship, he said, adding: ``If they had taken a different attitude, our response wouldn't have been as positive. ... Right now we think it is a positive mission and not contingent on anything.''

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