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    RUSSIA READY TO PONDER PUTTING BRAZILIAN ASTRONAUT INTO ORBIT

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    BRASILIA, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Vladimir Stepanov) - Russia is ready to ponder the possibility of launching into space a Brazilian astronaut, Russian Vice-Premier Boris Aleshin told RIA Novosti in an interview on Thursday. He was commenting on results of his meeting with Brazilian Defence Minister Jose Viegas.

    "Brazil has put in a feeler for putting a Brazilian astronaut into orbit. It is an important fact", Aleshin said. "The astronaut is now with the NASA agency but he is not sure if he will fly in a US spaceship because this is not in the plans." To Aleshin, "the Brazilian defence minister is ready to announce a joint Russian-Brazilian space project next week".

    "Brazil has made up its mind about getting ready the carrier rocket with our help," Boris Aleshin said.

    "It is a big contract, a big agreement and quite a breakthrough," stressed the Russian vice-minister. "It can be the joint development of a versatile satellite platform and satellites".

    "We have outlined a set of questions to be thoroughly considered and developed," Aleshin said.

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