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2006 GAS TARIFFS MAY SLIGHTLY RISE

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MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref does not rule out a slight increase in gas tariffs in 2006.

Addressing a news conference on Tuesday, he said that they would depend on the Gazprom's reassessment of its fixed assets and the pattern of indexation of excises and taxes on the production of minerals.

"This will require some adjustments to be made (ceilings on gas tariffs). Not large, as the monopoly proposes, but only some increase", he said.

"We are finalizing discussion of indexation of excises and taxes on the production of minerals, as well as reassessment of Gazprom's basic assets. The final figure of gas tariffs for the next year will depend on our decision", Gref added.

He explained that a reassessment of Gazprom's assets would increase the costs. "We cannot sell resources on the domestic market below their cost value. At least a small percent of profitability is a must", Gref noted.

Specialists from his ministry and Gazprom are studying the "soundness and size of indexes for the basic assets".

Earlier, the government planned to set an 11-percent limit for the growth of gas tariffs in 2006. Gazprom asks to increase it to 22 percent.

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