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Yesterday in Brief for February 8, 2007
[February 09, 2007]

Yesterday in Brief for February 8, 2007

(Interfax News Agency Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) The following is a digest of headline news from February 7 to 11:30 a.m. on February 8: RUSSIA TO DENY TRANSIT PERMISSION TO BELARUSIAN TRUCKS

Russia announced on Wednesday that it would prohibit Belarusian cargo transit across its territory in response to tighter Belarusian customs rules marking "a breach of the mutual agreements of 1998."

"Since January 2007, Belarusian customs have been inspecting all Russian goods that are transited through the Republic of Belarus from the Kaliningrad region to the rest of the territory of the Russian Federation, with vehicles being escorted on a compulsory basis," the ministry said in a report on its website,

"Until then, Russian goods had transited through Belarus on the basis of transportation documents with marks by the customs authorities of Kaliningrad region that permitted the goods to be carried to the rest of the country. As a result, a large number of vehicles have gathered on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border awaiting procedures of delivery and the arrival of escorts." UK MINISTER DISCUSSES PREDICTABILITY ISSUE IN MOSCOW

British Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling has discussed ways of achieving maximum legal predictability in Russia and the United Kingdom as a condition for normal economic cooperation at meetings in Moscow as part of his visit with a British business delegation.

The agenda for his meetings with Economic Development and
Minister German Gref and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin
includedprojects in Russia in which oil majors British Petroleum (BP) and Royal Dutch Shell are involved, Darling told a news conference in Moscow.

Darling said there was no reason to expect
relations to deteriorate, and denied any restrictions
existed on
investment by Russian companies in the United Kingdom. He
said hiscountry had a transparent legal environment for investment.

Asked whether Gazprom had been complying with British investment rules in seeking to buy multinational company Centrica, based in the UK, Darling said the British government had not received any bid to that effect from the Russian company. RUSSIA TO DISCUSS FOREIGN BANK BRANCHES DURING OECD TALKS

Russia has agreed to return to discussing the issue of foreign banks opening branches in Russia during future talks on joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told journalists in Moscow.

"As part of its WTO talks we agreed to consider the issue of access by branches of foreign banks during the negotiation process for joining the OECD," the minister said.

Gref said that a quota of not more than 50% would be put in place for foreign participation in the overall capital of the banking system. UES COMMITTEE APPROVES CHINESE PROJECT

The strategy and reform committee of Unified Energy Systems of Russia has supported the power monopoly's plans to considerably increase electricity exports to China, one of the participants in the committee's session told Interfax.

However, several committee members criticized the price aspects of the project.

Russia is to sell 3.6 billion to 4.5 billion
kilowatt-hours of
electricity to China a year at the initial stage of the
project. Thebasic price of $28.79 per megawatt-hour of electricity will be indexed annually to match the pace at which electricity prices on both countries' markets grow.

This principle is unclear, because Siberia is a region with traditionally low electricity prices, while the same sector in China is still regulated by the state, the participant said. MOSCOW REGRETS UK DELAYS IN LITVINENKO CASE - KAMYNIN

Moscow regrets the delays made by the United Kingdom in examining Russia's request for legal assistance as part of the investigation into the death of former Federal Security Service officer Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said on Wednesday.

"This prolonged delay in meeting Russia's request arouses regret, especially given Moscow's readiness for professional interaction," he said.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office first sent the request for assistance to the British Home Secretary on January 8, he said. KALININGRAD APPROVES AMBER INDUSTRY PROGRAM

The administration of the Kaliningrad region has approved a program to boost the region's amber industry between 2007 and 2011.

"The main purpose of this program, under which investment
amount to 1.939 billion rubles, is to form and develop the
amberindustry as one of the budget-building sectors, to take the region to a leading position in the world amber market, and secure the status of 'Amber Capital of Europe'," an administration official told Interfax.

The program is expected to increase sales of amber and goods made from amber from 600 million rubles to 3.13 billion rubles per year and to raise annual tax revenues from the industry from 90 million rubles to 468.9 billion, he said.

Amber reserves near the village of Yantar, situated near Kaliningrad's Baltic Sea coast, account for 95% of world reserves of amber. IVANOV TO TAKE PART IN INFORMAL NATO-RUSSIA COUNCIL MEETING

Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will discuss the development of military and military-technological cooperation between Russia and NATO during his upcoming trip to Spain.

"Ivanov will leave for Seville on Thursday, where he will take part in an informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Sergei Rybakov told Interfax.

"He will discuss a wide range of issues concerning the development of relations between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance in the area of military and military-technological cooperation with the NATO leadership," he said. BIRD FLU VACCINATION OF DOMESTIC POULTRY UNDER WAY IN PRIMORYE

The vaccination of domestic poultry against bird fly began in Primorye on Thursday, due to fears of bird flu spread by migrating birds from Southeast Asia, where outbreaks of the disease have been reported.

Vaccination has started early, on February, "because of a
winter in Primorye and an early return of migrating birds, the
maincarriers of the bird flu virus," Vladivostok authorities' press service told Interfax on Thursday. CIS & BALTICS AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA, TURKEY SIGN DEAL ON BAKU- TBILISI-KARS RAILROAD

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an agreement on the construction of a $420 million railroad connecting Baku, Tbilisi and Kars in Tbilisi on Wednesday.

The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad will be financed by the governments of three nations. Under a draft credit agreement,

Azerbaijan is to allocate for Georgia a credit of $200 million
at 1%
annual interest for 25 years to build the Georgian stretch
of therailroad.

The project includes the construction of a 29-kilometer branch and the repair of 160 kilometers of railroad in Georgian territory, a 76-km section in Turkey, and the partial restoration of a stretch of railroad in Azerbaijan. AZERI AIRFIELD TO BE UPGRADED TO NATO STANDARDS

An unspecified Azerbaijani military airfield is to be upgraded and

brought into line with NATO standards as the Azerbaijani and
authorities continue to cooperate as part of NATO's
IndividualPartnership Action Plan, U.S. embassy in Baku spokesman Jonathan Henick told journalists on Wednesday.

The Heydar Aliyev airport is currently the only airport in Azerbaijan capable of accepting NATO planes and refueling them, he said.

Another airfield that will be modernized to NATO standard has not yet been chosen, he said. NAZARBAYEV WANTS MORE "TECHNOCRATS" IN GOVERNMENT

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has said that more "technocrats" should be invited to work in government.

The time of "formidable administrators and crisis managers is gone, and it is necessary now to embrace a new management style. An era of skillful and literate technocrats is dawning," Nazarbayev said at a ceremony for political government officials on Thursday. "We are setting ourselves an ambitious and difficult goal to make Kazakhstan one of the fifty most competitive countries in the world," he said. KYRGYZ OPPOSITION FIGURE TURNS DOWN OFFER TO JOIN GOVERNMENT

Temir Sariyev, a Kyrgyz MP and co-leader of the opposition movement For Reforms, has turned down an offer to become the economic development and trade minister, citing political reasons.

"Prime Minister Azim Isabekov has officially offered me a position in the government as head the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. I thanked him but declined for political considerations," Sariyev said after a Thursday meeting with the premier.

"I cannot join the government I have been criticizing," he said. "One opposition member cannot change the policy of the authorities."

Copyright 2007 Interfax News Agency. Source: Financial Times Information Limited.

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