Azerbaiajan, RusAl set to talk aluminum plant

BAKU, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - Azerbaijan is studying a proposal from Russian metals giant RusAl to open an aluminum plant in the Caucasus republic, the country's economics minister said Thursday.

"We have a positive attitude to the Russian company's proposal to open an aluminum plant in Azerbaijan," Geidar Babayev said, adding that a delegation of experts from RusAl would travel to Azerbaijan some time soon to clarify some issues.

"RusAl is a world-famous company, and its coming to Azerbaijan will make a considerable contribution to the country's economy," Babayev said.

He said RusAl's plan has nothing to do with the situation surrounding Dutch company Fondel Metal, which signed a 25-year contract to revive aluminum production in Azerbaijan in 2001, but which, authorities said, has failed to meet its investment obligations under the contract. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade is looking into the problem at the moment.

The contract will be either terminated or resumed when Fondel Metal has provided explanations, Babayev said.

In a recent news release the Dutch company accused the Azerbaijani authorities of plans to sever the contract.

"With significant capital investment and effort Fondel transformed two industrial ruins [aluminum plants] into Azerbaijan's largest exporter outside the oil industry," the company said. Fondel also said it had created more than 3,000 jobs in some of Azerbaijan's most economically deprived regions. The company accused the authorities of politically motivated actions in the run-up and aftermath of the November 2005 parliamentary elections, when the state began interfering in the daily operations of Fondel and other companies.

The Dutch company was invited to work in Azerbaijan by ex-Economic Development and Trade Minister Farkhad Aliyev, who was arrested in October 2005 on charges of an attempted coup and embezzlement.

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