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    RUSSIA, BELARUS NO ACCORD YET ON RUBLE AS COMMON CURRENCY

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    MOSCOW, February 10, 2004. (RIA Novosti). The Council of Ministers of Russia-Belarus Union have not approved the package of agreements on the introduction of the Russian ruble as common currency of the union state, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told journalists following the session of the Council of Ministers on Tuesday.

    "There is no progress in this sphere," Kasyanov said.

    Nevertheless, the ruble introduction as common Russian-Belarussian currency is possible since January 1, 2005. According to the Russian premier, this requires "a principled political decision of the Belarussian leadership".

    According to him, the Belarussian side has "several preoccupations, which we respect". Belarus wants to add some agreements to the package of documents on the introduction of the ruble as common currency. At issue are taxation problems, the granting of credits to Belarus and the cancellation of tax control on the Russian-Belarussian border.

    "In addition, there are new aspects which calls into doubt the earlier achieved agreements," Mikhail Kasyanov said. Doubts of the Belarussian side concern the status of common emissive center, he noted.

    In his words, if Belarus takes a principled political decision, a special session of the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Council of Russia-Belarus Union can be held in March to decide on the common currency introduction on January 1, 2005.

    "Today heads of the Central Banks agreed that if the decision is taken by the end of March, they will be able to make all preparations for the ruble introduction over nine months," Kasyanov said.

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