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St. Petersburg authorities expect Suzuki to unfreeze plant project

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MOSCOW, June 10 (RIA Novosti) - St. Petersburg authorities vowed on Wednesday to maintain the land plot earmarked for a Suzuki car factory in the hope that the Japanese automaker will unfreeze the project within a year.

The Japanese carmaker Suzuki suspended a project to build the plant near Russia's second-largest city last Thursday.

"I would like to believe that this is a temporary decision," St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko said on Wednesday in an interview with RIA Novosti. "When the crisis is over, they will return to the project."

"We still keep the land plot reserved for them ... in the hope that they will resume talks," Matviyenko said.

The governor explained the project had been suspended amid the crisis and financial problems the company was currently facing over a drop in sales on the Russian market.

"The letter they have sent says clearly they were forced to take the decision to temporarily suspend the project," Matviyenko said.

Under a deal signed with Russia's economics ministry and St. Petersburg authorities in 2007, the plant was intended to produce 30,000 cars annually, with the possibility to increase it to 50,000 by 2012 and then to 100,000. Suzuki Grand Vitara and SX4 were to be the main models produced. Initial investment was assessed at 85 million euros ($120 million).

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