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    FEDERATION COUNCIL VICE-SPEAKER TORSHIN AGAINST CUTTING NUMBER OF VICE-PREMIERS

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    MOSCOW, March 2, 2004. (RIA Novosti correspondent Maria Balynina) -- Alexander Torshin, vice-speaker of the Federation Council (Russian parliament's upper chamber), says that a reduction of the number of vice-premiers in a new cabinet of ministers may complicate its work.

    "A small team cannot manage a territory the size of Russia," Mr. Torshin told journalists.

    He recalled that one of the vice-premiers as a rule performs representation functions. Such as the meeting of the heads of government of other countries arriving to Moscow with official visits.

    "Having only two vice-premiers in the cabinet, one of them will have to permanently reside at the Sheremetyevo airport and have a special suit for such events", senator Torshin said.

    According to the protocol, "an ordinary minister cannot be sent to meet a prime minister of another country: the visitor may merely turn away and fly back," he said.

    In addition, if a cabinet has only two posts of vice-ministers, they will not be able to do full-fledged work with all the 89 regions of Russia, Mr. Torshin said.

    In his opinion, if the cabinet is to be reformed, the number of departments has contrarily to be increased. "And besides, it is not to be forgotten that the restructuring of any system calls for financial and manpower resources for at least 18 months," Mr. Torshin said.

    He believes that any structural changes in the government should follow a clear-cut programme. "Everything should be logical and expedient, no haste permitted. It should be clear why we cut or increase the number of departments," Mr. Torshin noted.

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