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    BELARUS MADE GAS SUPPLIES A POLITICAL ISSUE

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    Moscow, February 19,2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent). The first deputy speaker of the State Duma, Lubov Sliska, thinks Belarus needlessly made a political issue out of supplies of Russian gas.

    According to Ms. Sliska, this is "a pure economical matter, and Alexander Lukashenko [the president of Belarus] is the only person who is trying to make it political. But even Russian private companies are out of patience." In her opinion, both parties must start negotiations on governmental and corporate levels.

    "The possibility of starting negotiations is not lost yet, and the sooner they start, the better," said one of the leaders in the lower chamber of Russian Parliament. - 0 - (MAN/SM)

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