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MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti) - Оn May 29, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is to sign in Damascus an Agreement on Settlement of Syria's Debt to Russia, a spokesperson for the Russian Finance Ministry said. On Saturday, Alexei Kudrin is to be received by Syria's Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Utri, and on Sunday - by President Bashar Asad. Also on Sunday, Kudrin is to meet with his Syrian counterpart and sign the debt settlement agreement. In the course of these meetings, the parties are going to discuss the whole range of their bilateral relations, focusing on expansion of Russian-Syrian trade and economic cooperation in general and on implementation of the debt settlement agreement in particular.

A Protocol on reconciliation of major parameters in Syria's debt settlement was signed on January 25, 2005 by Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and his Syrian counterpart Muhammed al-Hussein during Syrian President Bashar Asad's visit to Russia.

On Thursday, the Russian Government approved the draft Agreement. Speaking at the Cabinet meeting, Alexei Kudrin said that Syria's overall debt to the USSR amounted to $14.55 billion, with Syria's counterclaims accounting for $1.15 billion.

"The overall amount of Syria's debt has been set at $13.4 billion," Kudrin said, pointing out that the write-off would account for 73 per cent.

According to him, Syria would commence repayment of debt from July 1, 2005. The Minister explained that of the total debt amount of $3.6 billion Syria would repay $1.5 billion in hard currency within the subsequent 10 years, with the remaining part of $2.1 billion to be converted into the Syrian currency and paid out immediately. Kudrin said that the latter part of the Syrian debt would be used for purchase of Syrian goods as well as for Russian investments in Syrian economy. He also pointed out that the Syrian side was ready to provide additional guarantees offsetting commercial and political risks involved.

The Agreement on Syria's debt settlement is subject to mandatory ratification in both houses of the Russian parliament.

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