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    FINANCE MINISTER ON HIGH LEVEL OF GOLD AND CURRENCY RESERVES

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    MOSCOW, February 12, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russia needs gold and currency to ensure six-months' reserves to pay for imports, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

    "This is essential for our country, because the lack of sufficient gold and currency reserves increases the risk in import contract payments in case of slumping oil prices," he explained stressing that gold and currency reserves were a factor of regulating the course policy and the country's sovereign solvency.

    In an interview with the Kommersant newspaper, Kudrin recalled that the Central Bank and the stabilisation fund had different tasks. "The stabilisation fund was formed to secure budget expenditures and not to support the course," he said adding that this did not overlap with the tasks of Central Bank's reserves.

    The finance minister said that the Central Bank would be handling the finances of the stabilisation fund. "Since the Central Bank deposits its gold and currency reserves every month, it will be able to do the same with the stabilisation fund," Kudrin said adding that the money would be placed into absolutely safe securities, and not the securities of developing markets.

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