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    MOSCOW AND MINSK MAY BEGIN GAS TALKS NEXT WEEK

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    MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Already next week Russia and Belarus may begin talks on Russian gas supplies and the granting of an intergovernmental credit to pay for Minsk's gas contracts with Gazprom, Gennadi Yezhov told journalists on Thursday. He is the press secretary of Russian Vice-Premier and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

    "Belarussian Finance Minister Nikolai Korbut is ready to fly to Moscow for talks on getting a credit to pay for the gas contracts with Gazprom," Yezhov said. "In a telephone conversation with Kudrin, Korbut said that the Belarussian side has already prepared a draft agreement on the intergovernmental credit." "Kudrin in turn said that the Russian side is ready to begin the talks but it will be a market-term credit and its size will depend on the gas-supply agreement to be concluded between Belarus and Gazprom," Yezhov said.

    In this connection, Yezhov said that the gas-supply and credit talks may proceed simultaneously.

    "First deputy finance minister Alexei Ulyukaev will be authorised to hold the talks. They may begin next week," Yezhov said.

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