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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 1, 2000

1 November 2000
Tatneft Restructures Debt
Shafagat Takhautdinov, the general manager of Tatarstan's leading oil company, Tatneft, signed a $354 million debt restructuring agreement with a group of western creditors in Moscow on 31 October, Tatar-inform reported. Creditors were represented by the Dresdner Bank AG, Credit Swiss, Chase Manhattan Bank, Berliner Bank AG, West Merchant Bank Ltd., Societe Generale, Credit Agricole Indosuez, BHF-Bank AG, and Zenit Bank. Under the agreement, the debt will be repaid within two years. Tatneft will pay from $15.5 to $22 million monthly depending on world oil prices.

Tatneft extracts 8 percent of all oil in Russia. It had become one of the first Russian companies to get a direct credit from a foreign bank without guarantees from the Russian or Tatar governments. By August 1998, the credits received by Tatneft included long-term credit obligations, or eurobonds, a $350 million credit from the U.S. Ex-Im Bank; short-term credits on the security of oil exports; and short-term, non-secured credits. The collapse of the world stock market, a fall in oil prices, and the financial crisis in Russia in 1998 made it difficult for Tatneft to repay its debts. Negotiations on the issue have been ongoing for two years. When they began, Tatneft's total debt was $1 billion.

Takhautdinov informed reporters after the meeting that the capital investments of the company will rise 2.5 times for the current year compared to last year and will total 12 billion rubles. Some $15 million is scheduled to be spent on construction of the Tuben Kama oil processing plant. Takhautdinov said that 1 billion rubles will be invested in the near future on the construction of 100 gas stations in Russia and Ukraine. Tatneft completed the first stage of prospecting work in Iraq and is currently developing several joint projects with this country. Takhautdinov noted, however, that "real work in Iraq will start only when UN sanctions are removed." Tatneft delivers to Iraq some equipment and participates in the "oil for food" program.

Russian Daily On 'Conflict Between Russian Orthodox Church and Tatarstan'
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov confirmed Tatarstan's claim for the Kazan Divine Mother icon during his meeting with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, which is held in a Vatican museum, the Russian daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 31 October. The daily wrote that Iskhakov persuaded the Pope to return the icon not to Moscow, but to Kazan, using an official message from Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev. Earlier, it was announced that an exhibit from the Vatican collection will be given by John Paul to the Moscow Patriarchate during a still unplanned papal visit to Moscow. The newspaper said the situation will imminently turn into a conflict between the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and Tatar authorities. The article says the Pope will "blackmail the Russian Church" by suggesting that it will only receive the icon if the Pope is invited to Moscow, citing a source in the Moscow Patriarchate.

Turkish Diplomat Holds Reception
An official reception devoted to the 77th anniversary of the formation of the Turkish Republic was held in Turkey's General-Consulate in Kazan on 31 October, Tatar-inform reported. Tatarstan's leaders -- President Mintimer Shaimiev, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, State Council chairman Farid Mukhametshin, presidential administration head Ekzam Gubaidullin, Interior Minister Ashat Safarov, state advisers to the president, Rafail Khakimov and Timur Akulov, and National Bank chairman Yevgeni Bogachev were invited to the affair by General-Consul Akhmet Reza Demirer.

By Gulnara Khasanova