Russia PM-designate Zubkov says military a priority

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MOSCOW, Sep 14 (Reuters) Russian Prime Minister-designate Viktor Zubkov pledged today to press ahead with President Vladimir Putin's policies and said bringing about a recovery in the once-mighty military-industrial complex was a top priority.

''Our strategic goal is to help lift the defence industry complex,'' Zubkov told deputies in the State Duma (parliament) in a confirmation speech prior to a vote which was widely expected to approve his nomination.

Under Putin, Russia's defence budget has been growing by around 30 per cent a year and the armed forces have started to test new weapons, including improved long-range missiles and a powerful vacuum bomb.

Zubkov began by making clear that, as expected, he would stick to Putin's established policies, including further reducing inflation, preventing sharp fluctuations in the value of the rouble and reducing taxes.

''I believe our priorities should be the strategic targets and programmes of concrete actions set out in the president's state of the nation addresses in the past few years,'' the premier-designate said.

''I think the government must find room to further reduce taxes''.

Zubkov, speaking less than three months before nationwide parliamentary elections, also suggested that Russia's key natural resources sector ought to bring in more cash.

''Russian oil and gas, forest, fish and other natural riches should bring more revenue'', he said.

Zubkov, whose nomination was widely seen here as a way for Putin to guarantee the continuity of his policies after he steps down from the presidency next year, did not announce new policies in his initial speech.

REUTERS SBC HT1500

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