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    RUSSIA MUST BECOME POWERFUL TRANSIT COUNTRY

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    MOSCOW, January 28, 2004. / RIA Novosti/. Russia must become a powerful transit country, and the development of international transport corridors should help attain this goal, Vice Premier Vladimir Yakovlev said at a conference at the European Business Club devoted to Russia's transport strategy.

    Speaking, in particular, about the North-South transport corridor, Yakovlev expressed certainty that agreements with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on direct rail ferry service across the Caspian Sea, which are being drafted now, would help increase freight traffic via this corridor.

    In future, a similar agreement may be signed with Iran, the vice-premier said.

    The conclusion of an interstate framework agreement with Iran on annual supplies of 2-3 million tons of grain from Russia could also help increase freight traffic across the Caspian Sea.

    The main task in developing the East-West transport corridor for the next few years is the adding of cross roads to the Baikal-Amur railway (BAM). As Yakovlev said, only 20-25 percent of the existing BAM capacities are being used effectively now.

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