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    PRESIDENT, VICE-PREMIER DISCUSS SOWING CAMPAIGN

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    NOVO-OGARYOVO, March 5, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Russian acting Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Gordeyev has requested the president to take prices of fuel and lubricants under his personal control during the sowing campaign.

    It is extremely important to stabilise fuel prices for the sowing campaign, Mr Gordeyev said at a meeting with Vladimir Putin on Friday.

    Mr Gordeyev recalled that the president had always taken fuel prices under control and sowing campaigns had gone smoothly.

    Mr Gordeyev also asked for an opportunity to report the president on sowing campaign-related matters so that the government could react promptly to possible problems.

    When asked by the president about current fuel prices, Mr Gordeyev said the situation was quiet.

    He reported on interest-free loans, which provinces received in March to boost their cultivation areas.

    Mr Gordeyev said the idea was to increase the area under spring cereals by a million hectares. The total area may reach then 2 million hectares, added Mr Gordeyev.

    A one-billion-ruble interest-free loan has been earmarked in the federal budget to back the provinces, which are boosting their cultivation areas, said Mr Gordeyev.

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