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    DUMA SPEAKER DOES NOT RULE OUT FURTHER PROCESS OF MERGING REGIONS

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    MOSCOW, March 19, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - Boris Gryzlov, Speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, told reporters on Friday that Russian regions may continue to be merged.

    The Duma passed a constitutional law in three readings at its plenary meeting on Friday, which envisages the merger of the Perm region and the Komi-Perm autonomy into the Perm Territory.

    Mr Gryzlov recalled that both regions' residents had supported the merger at a referendum. "The draft law on the merger of the region and the autonomy into the Perm Territory was worked out on the basis of the referendum results," said Mr Gryzlov. The idea behind the merger is to raise the efficiency of the future entity's economy and people's wellbeing.

    "If residents of other regions speaks out in favor of merging their regions, and this improves their wellbeing, I do not rule out that other constituent members of Russia may be merged too," Mr Gryzlov said, adding that the precedent had been set.

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