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    FRADKOV FORWARDS ZHUKOV AS FIRST VICE PREMIER

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    MOSCOW, March 2nd, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Mikhail Fradkov has forwarded Deputy Speaker of the Duma Alexander Zhukov to the post of the first deputy prime minister in the new Russian government.

    "Mikhail Fradkov has stated that he would like to see Alexander Zhukov at the post of the first deputy prime minister," said First Deputy Speaker of the Duma Lyubov Sliska after Mr. Fradkov's meeting with deputies of the United Russia faction.

    As for Mr. Fradkov's meeting with the United Russia deputies, Ms Sliska noted that Mr. Fradkov "had exhaustively answered deputies' questions about the formation of the new cabinet, relations with the EU, investment issues, industry and also the social sphere.

    Ms Sliska devoted particular attention to the latter, recalling that there were about 105 social draft laws that the government had turned down and that needed to be further elaborated.

    Ms Sliska did not rule out that Sergei Shoigu and Alexei Gordeyev would remain in the government, and their candidacies had already been discussed by the deputies and the potential prime minister.

    In turn, the Duma Deputy Speaker and head of a group inside the United Russia faction, Vladimir Pekhtin, did not rule out that Mr. Zhukov would not be the only candidacy from United Russia in the new government.

    "We will have other proposals on the candidacies to the government. This is 2-3 people at least," said Mr. Pekhtin.

    On Monday, the Russian president sent a letter to the State Duma requesting it to approve Mr. Fradkov's candidacy for premiership.

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