Russian MPs ready to approve Putin's choice for PM

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MOSCOW, Sep 14 (Reuters) Russia's parliament is expected to vote overwhelmingly on Friday to approve President Vladimir Putin's nominee for prime minister, political unknown Viktor Zubkov.

Between 360 and 400 deputies in the 450-seat lower house of parliament, the Duma, are likely to support Putin's choice.

Nominees for prime minister must receive no fewer than 226 votes to be endorsed.

In the fiercely pro-Kremlin legislature, all factions except the Communist party said they would vote for Zubkov.

''We unanimously support the candidacy of Viktor Alekseyevich Zubkov for the post of Russian government chairman,'' Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov, who leads the pro-Putin United Russia party with more than 300 seats, told reporters.

''I believe this will be Russia's best government in 30 years,'' said Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party.

Putin on Wednesday nominated Zubkov, the little-known head of a money laundering watchdog, as new premier in a move that puzzled many analysts who had long predicted that a political heavyweight would be picked.

Zubkov added to the uncertainty yesterday by saying he might run for president next year, when Putin is to step down.

Zubkov, about to turn 66, rose from worker to state farm head and then to district Communist party official in the Soviet era. In the 1990s he worked alongside Putin in the St Petersburg city government.

Reuters SZ VP0410

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