MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) Russia may revise its Iran policy/ Rusal, Sual and Glencore to set up aluminum giant/ Russia's Space Agency wants no truck with Kazakhstan/ Ruling in new Khodorkovsky case almost ready - lawyers
Russia may revise its Iran policy
Tehran could be using the cover of its civilian nuclear program to create the bomb, Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the upper house's committee on international affairs, said March 1.
Until now, Moscow had been advocating maximum restraint regarding Tehran, saying that there is no conclusive evidence that it is conducting a military nuclear program, and warned the United States against using force to solve the Iran issue.
Margelov's statement may indicate a change in Russia's Iran policy, which could revive the Russian-American strategic partnership that developed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Despite a growing wave of mutual criticism in the spirit of the Cold War, both Moscow and Washington do not need another nuclear power. The solution of the North Korean nuclear problem may lead to a possible Russian-American alliance on the Iran issue.
During the North Korean talks in Beijing, Russia and the U.S. worked together, and by mid-February convinced Pyongyang to sign an agreement to suspend its nuclear program in return for foreign aid.
Nikolai Zlobin, director of the Russia and Eurasia Project at the Washington-based World Security Institute, said: "The U.S. Department of State and National Security Council are discussing the application of the North Korean model to Iran. Washington knows that model will not be effective without Russia."
Zlobin said Washington might agree to concessions to secure Russia's support for its Iran policy. "The White House is prepared to discuss Russian interests on the post-Soviet territory, and joint projects in energy transportation and global security. Russia and the U.S. have several times approached the idea of creating a joint ABM system, but all those attempts failed. A revision of Russia's Iran policy may make the system a reality," Zlobin said.
But Iran will not sit on its hands either.
"We can expect Tehran to make new promises of facilitating cooperation with Russia, attracting Russian investment and involving Moscow in global energy projects," the analyst said.
"Promises could be made to support Russian initiatives on the Middle East problem and other troubled regions. Iran would find things it can promise even in conditions of sanctions. It is a large, powerful and politically active country, and Iranians are sharp, smart and know their way about, unlike Russians who are more trusting," Zlobin said.
Rusal, Sual and Glencore to set up aluminum giant
The merger of Russian aluminum giants Rusal and Sual with Swiss raw materials supplier Glencore may be completed within a week to create the world's largest aluminum company Rusal.
Rusal and Sual owners Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg are moving to lay off personnel, including Sual chief executive officer Brian Gilbertson.
It is unclear who the new company's top managers will be. Gilbertson, who was appointed as head of the consolidated Rusal board of directors in October 2006, has been in disagreement with majority shareholder Vekselberg regarding his salary.
Experts said Gilbertson's ambitions are too high because he was not involved in closing the deal.
"Sual needed Gilbertson to improve its image in the eyes of foreign investors," Alpha Bank analyst Vladimir Zhukov told the paper.
However, Rusal can now do without the additional publicity in the West.
It is not known who will become the company's CEO.
"A top manager who suits both owners, rather than beneficiaries themselves, will be appointed to this position," said Vladimir Popov, an analyst with the Antanta Capital brokerage.
The 12-person Rusal board of directors will comprise a chairman, six Rusal representatives, two from Sual, one from Glencore, and possibly two independent foreign directors.
The new super-company will be managed from Russia.
It appears that Russian aluminum kings are among the first to fulfil President Vladimir Putin's orders to set up an international-class company that will not relinquish control to foreigners.
Opponents of Gazprom-SUEK merger seek government support
Russian anti-trust authorities fear that the move by Gazprom, the state-controlled gas giant, to take over SUEK, the country's largest coal producer, will limit competition on the energy market and plan to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Gazprom maintains that it has supporters of the plan within the government.
SUEK intends to include all of its coal and generation assets in the future joint venture, where it will receive a 50% minus one share.
Alexander Pirozhenko, head of the energy sector department of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, said yesterday that they had the right to block the merger. "Naturally, our decision has to be well grounded because it can be contested in court," he said. The service does not plan to draft any specific enactments to ban mergers between energy companies; it will carefully look at all transactions in the sector on an individual basis, he said.
A high-ranking source in Gazprom said he could predict the outcome of the service's address to Fradkov. "The government's reaction is already known," he said.
A source in SUEK said that "the anti-monopoly authorities should first of all regulate the markets and establish regulatory standards, not prohibit transactions."
However, the former and incumbent officials that are strongly opposed to the merger (including Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref and CEO of RAO UES, Russia's power generation monopoly, Anatoly Chubais) were yesterday joined by Vyacheslav Kravchenko, director of the Industry and Energy Ministry's department for structural and tariff policies. "You cannot concentrate everything, from a football team to an energy company, in one place," he said.
It is yet to be seen whether opponents of the takeover are willing to initiate a political confrontation with the gas giant. The transaction obviously has the approval of at least First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who also chairs Gazprom's board of directors.
Russia's Space Agency wants no truck with Kazakhstan
Anatoly Perminov, the head of Russia's federal space agency, unintentionally revealed plans for a new space center in Russia for manned launches during an interview with a government news agency. Igor Panarin, the space agency's spokesman, quickly issued a denial, saying "No official statements have been made to that effect."
Basically, Perminov described plans as they stood, and in a couple of weeks the proposal was to be endorsed by the cabinet, but the news broke early. Now Kazakhstan, which expects to draw $115 million in rent for the Baikonur space center annually until 2050, may intervene.
The idea of self-reliance has for some time been on the cards. Some specialists consider that between $500 million and $1 billion would be sufficient to build a new space center. Besides, Moscow is not happy with Astana's rulings to ban some launches, as happened with the Dnepr mission, which was suspended following an accident in July and have yet to be resumed.
The launch facilities available in Russia are not suitable for manned missions. Plesetsk, in the Arkhangelsk Region, a launch facility for military spacecraft, is located too far to the north. The space center Svobodny, in the Amur Region, is too far from industrial centers to be capable of launching manned flights.
The Kapustin Yar launch site in the Astrakhan Region, which is the oldest among the space facilities, is the most appropriate. It was from here that Russian rocket designer Sergei Korolyov launched the first Soviet ballistic R-1 missile, and the first space dogs Belka and Strelka. If the Kapustin Yar infrastructure is upgraded thoroughly, it could in principle serve manned flights.
Ruling in new Khodorkovsky case almost ready - lawyers
The Basmanny court in Moscow has found the executives of Yukos, the beleaguered oil giant, guilty of exporting oil using domestic offshore zones. Similar charges were brought last month against the company's former co-owners, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, who are already serving prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion. "This is bad news for them," experts told the newspaper.
The second Yukos case was launched at the end of 2004. Prosecutors investigated the scheme used by Yukos' production subsidiaries to sell oil to companies Fargoil and Ratibor, registered in domestic offshore zones, which then went on to export the oil. Investigators considered the scheme embezzlement and money laundering. They maintained that the sums of money involved continued to increase finally reaching $13 billion. Defendants in the case include Ratibor's CEO Vladimir Malakhovsky, former deputy head of Yukos' foreign debt directorate Vladimir Pereverzin, and Fargoil's CEO Antonio Valdes-Garcia, who initially cooperated with investigators but then fled in January 2007.
Prosecutors demanded that Malakhovsky and Pereverzin receive prison sentences of up to 11 years. Yesterday they were found guilty, recognizing that they acted as part of a criminal group, but as yet they have not been sentenced. The case may continue today.
It is more than likely the ruling will be used in a new case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, which, according to prosecutors, may start soon. The case was divided into several parts on purpose: the facts established at this trial will be considered as evidence for the new one, said Khodorkovsky's lawyer Yuri Shmidt.
Lebedev's lawyer Konstantin Rivkin said that this would relieve the judge of the need to establish some of the facts. The case of Pereverzin and Malakhovsky will play a significant role in charges brought against his client, he said.
Criminal lawyer Andrei Knyazev said that those who are tried after someone else has already been convicted of involvement in the same case are found guilty 99% of the time. Usually, only two or three years are added to their sentences, however, the Yukos case is too politically sensitive, so it is unclear what any additional sentence for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev could be.
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