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    Russia's 2006 economic forecast remains unchanged -- minister

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    Russia's economic development and trade ministry is maintaining its forecast for growth in the gross domestic product and inflation in 2006, the minister said Wednesday.

    MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's economic development and trade ministry is maintaining its forecast for growth in the gross domestic product and inflation in 2006, the minister said Wednesday.

    The ministry has set a ceiling for inflation at 9%, down 1.9% on last year's figure, and projected GDP growth at 6.6% in 2006, up from 6.4% in 2005.

    "There are no objective reasons to change the inflation figures so far," German Gref told a Moscow investment forum. "We are sticking to the figures set at the start of this year."

    He said a 2006 GDP forecast would remain unchanged, even though Russia's GDP grew 6.7% in the first seven months of the year.

    Gref also said the Federal Agency for Special Economic Zones would remain under the jurisdiction of his ministry. Yury Zhdanov resigned Tuesday as the agency's head, a post he had held since its inception in 2005, in what Gref called a coordinated step.

    In May, the customs service was transferred to the government's control from the economics ministry after a number of senior officials were dismissed.

    Zhdanov's former agency controls a high-profile project to establish six special economic zones in Russia by the end of 2007. The areas should provide companies, some of which could be foreign firms, with customs and tax breaks of up to 20 years in a bid to boost the country's economic performance.

    The minister said Zhdanov, who will turn 43 on Friday, had made known his plans to step down well in advance. Gref thanked him for his contribution to getting the zones up and running.

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