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    MOSCOW, April 2, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The draft law on meetings and rallies needs to be seriously amended by the second reading, Boris Gryzlov, Speaker of the State Duma (parliament's lower house) and leader of the United Russia faction, told reporters on Friday.

    "The United Russia faction deems it necessary to amend a number of articles in the bill, particularly the one listing the territories, where rallies are not allowed to be staged, which triggered heated debates," said Mr. Gryzlov.

    The bill bans rallies near central and regional government buildings, recalled the speaker.

    Pavel Krasheninnikov of United Russia, who heads the Duma committee on civil, criminal and arbitration laws, introduced an amendment yesterday, which excluded from the list the areas adjacent to administrative and executive authority buildings at the exception of the presidential residence.

    "A number of other articles and bills need to be introduced to ensure people's rights to take part in public meetings," said Mr. Gryzlov.

    The draft law was submitted to the previous Duma and triggered heated debates in society, recalled Mr. Gryzlov.

    "The law on rallies adopted back in the Soviet period is in effect to this date," said the speaker. Mr. Gryzlov, therefore, thinks it is time to pass a new law that would offer a broader interpretation of the Constitution and stipulate the common procedures of holding public meetings.

    Under the bill, organisers have to notify authorities of planned rallies, which "offers greater opportunities for holding public meetings," according to Mr. Gryzlov.

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