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    ASTANA, January 10, 2004 (RIA Novosti) -- The Russian Minister of Fuel and Power Industries, Igor Yusufov, has hailed a new agreement with Kazakhstan for joint recovery of oil reserves in that country's segment of the Caspian sea shelf. The deal, described by the minister as "a significant event," was just struck by corporate executives in the Kazakh capital of Astana, with Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan attending the signing ceremony.

    "This is a large-scale contract, and we expect the area to have abundant reserves," the Russian minister noted. He said he was hopeful that more Russian companies would get involved in the development of Caspian oil deposits.

    Speaking of co-operation in the energy sector, Yusufov remarked that the two countries were "stepping up interaction." They have long-term transit arrangements, with greater amounts of Kazakh oil to be transported across Russian territory in the years to come, he said.

    According to the minister, Russo-Kazakh gas co-operation is also gaining momentum. "We would like and are hoping to see Gazprom broaden its involvement in Kazakhstan's gas sector. There are large natural gas resources over here," Yusufov said.

    The minister also indicated Moscow's interest in broader co-operation in the electricity sector. Since June 2000, the electrical power grids of Russia and Kazakhstan have been operating in parallel, Yusufov noted. According to him, a joint Russo-Kazakh electrical station is just about to open at Ekibastuz, in Kazakhstan, on the facilities of a Soviet-era plant.

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