Over 2,000 Russian tourists who have bought New Year and Christmas tours to Italy may not happen to reach their destination. Alexander Sorokin, deputy chief of the tourist department at the Economic Development Ministry, told a press conference in Moscow that despite the fact that the Italian ambassador to Russia has notified the Russian side of a three-month cancellation of the demand on obligatory membership of Russian tourist firms in the association of air carriers (IATA), the statement remains "a mere declaration". On December 17, 2002, the Italian embassy ceased receipt of documents from tourist agencies earlier accredited at the embassy and began executing them only with respect to firms members of the IATA. A large number of tourists are now faced with the threat of cancellation of their pre-planned tours. The question of membership in the Association was discussed at a session of the Russian-Italian Council for Economic, Industrial and Currency-Financial Cooperation. Chief of the Italian delegation, Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero, assured the Russian side that a solution to the problem will be found within 24 hours. Alexander Sorokin believes that the problem runs into the reluctance of Italian embassy officials to work in an enhanced regime.
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