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IN SHORT

Bratislava and Vienna to be linked in 2005

PREPARATIONS for the construction of a 20-kilometer highway stretch between the Austrian border town of Kittsee and the highway connecting Vienna to Budapest are advancing.

"Everything indicates that after the start of construction in 2003, the stretch will be completed by the end of 2005," said Boris Gandel, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry following last week's talks of the Slovak-Austrian commission for co-operation in transport.

The Slovak-Austrian commission, whose mandate is to improve transport between Slovakia and Austria, was launched at the initiative of Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schűssel in 2000.

Austrian and Slovak businessmen have been frustrated by the lack of a decent road connection between Vienna and Bratislava, which at only 60 kilometres apart are two of Europe's closest capitals.

A strong environmental and civil lobby in eastern Austria has so far managed to defeat plans to build a large freeway through the area's rural hinterland.

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