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Turkmen Report: February 9, 2004

9 February 2004
Turkmen President Condemns Terrorist Act In Moscow
7 February 2004

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has sent a letter of condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with an explosion in a Moscow subway train, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February, citing the Turkmen president's press service.

"Turkmenistan strongly condemns any manifestations of terrorism and is committed to irreconcilable struggle against this evil," Niyazov wrote. The Turkmen president also expressed deep sympathy and support for the relatives and families of the dead. (ITAR-TASS)

Niyazov Replaces State Tax Service Head
6 February 2004

President Niyazov has replaced State Tax Service head Bairammurad Muradov, Interfax reported on 6 February, citing a presidential administration source. Amandurdy Myratgulyev, former head of the Rukhabat region's tax service, has been appointed to replace Muradov the source said. Niyazov said at a cabinet meeting on 5 February that tax collection fell short of planned targets.

"Although 20 percent growth was registered in all sectors throughout the country, you have failed to meet all tax targets both on the national and regional levels," Niyazov said, addressing Muradov.

"You have failed to meet the targets for the payment tax, the value-added tax, the income tax, and the duty on the use of subsoil resources. There are no state insurance payments and you neglected the collection of taxes on personal income. In many cases, your staff conspires with businessmen and the state fails to collect almost half of the taxes," he said. Furthermore, in January there was a 21.3 percent growth in industry, 17.4 percent in agriculture, and 15.1 percent in construction.

"Oil production increased by 3 percent and totaled 800,000 tons of oil last month," Niyazov said. "Foreign trade is on the rise. Gas imports increased by 6 percent and the amount of oil products and crude oil sold abroad is growing," he said. (Interfax)

Caspian States To Gather For Summit In Tehran
5 February 2004

The five Caspian states -- Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan -- will gather for a summit in Tehran this year, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Gholam Reza Shafei said, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February.

Shafei said on 5 February that the summit would precede a meeting of the Caspian foreign ministers that will focus on the agenda of the summit. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, Shafei said Iran intends "to reach agreement with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on coastal lines." "Our countries have the closest borders. We are closely linked to them," he said.

Commenting on Iran's position on the division of the Caspian Sea, Shafei said: "Iran is proposed less that it expects. We expect our share to be much more." (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmenistan To Produce 74 Billion Cubic Meters Of Gas In 2004
5 February 2004

Under a program for development of the oil-and-gas sector in 2004, Turkmenistan is to produce 73.9 billion cubic meters of gas, with 57.5 billion cubic meters of that to be exported, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 February, citing an official in the Ministry of the Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources.

In January, Turkmenistan produced more than 6.5 billion cubic meters of gas, with 4.7 billion cubic meters being exported, a 5 percent and 7 percent increase, respectively, as compared with last year's indicators, the ministry official said. (ITAR-TASS)

Turkmenneft Joins Zarit Joint Venture
4 February 2004

The Turkmenneft oil company has become a player in the joint venture Zarit, set up in 2002 by Zarubezhneft, Rosneft, and Itera, Interfax reported on 4 February, citing a source with one of the participants.

The Turkmen company has received a 15 percent stake in Zarit in a redistribution of other participants' shares. Rosneft and Itera each now have roughly 31 percent instead of 37 percent, and Zarubezhneft around 23 percent instead of 26 percent. Zarit was set up to work Blocks 28, 29, 30, and 31 on Turkmenistan's section of the Caspian Sea shelf.

Turkmenistan has invited Iran to become a partner, too, though Iran has not yet indicated its acceptance. The source noted that the country's involvement would be desirable for the project's implementation. Zarit may well be signing a production-sharing agreement with Turkmenistan on a project for developing Caspian Sea shelf deposits later this month. (Interfax)

Ashgabat Controls Grain Prices
3 February 2004

The government controls bread prices in Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 February. A loaf of bread has cost 1,000 manats in a state-owned shop since 1998. The official exchange rate has been 5,200 manats to the dollar since the same year.

The government has been selling flour and salt to the poor at set prices since 1992. People with larger incomes buy bread at private bakeries, whose prices vary from 2,500 manats to 10,000 manats.

In the early 1990s Turkmenistan bought much grain from Iran, because domestic grain production did not exceed 100,000 tons. Cotton made up the core of domestic agriculture. The first million tons of grain were collected in Turkmenistan in 1998, and the grain harvest was 2.5 million tons in 2003.

"Turkmenistan has achieved food independence," President Niyazov said. The president offered to sell Ukraine Turkmen grain in the summer of 2003. "The domestic grain demand of Turkmenistan is 700,000 tons," he said. (ITAR-TASS)