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UPDATE 1-RUSAL eyes Siberia smelter with Chinese partner

* Agrees to work closely with Russia economy ministry

* Estimates annual smelter capacity at 800,000 tonnes

(Adds detail, quotes, background)

MOSCOW, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Russian aluminium group RUSAL

is looking for Chinese partners to build a smelter in Siberia with a design capacity of 800,000 tonnes per year.

"We understand that despite the challenging economic situation globally, now is the time to lay the foundation for development of Siberia and the far east, as these regions will be driving Russia's growth in the years ahead," first deputy chief executive Vladislav Soloviev said on Friday.

His comment was made after RUSAL signed an agreement with the economy ministry to "work closely within the framework of a potential joint venture with the Chinese partners to build an aluminium smelter in Siberia".

Hong Kong-listed RUSAL had said in September companies in China, the world's largest consumer and producer of aluminium, should consider investing in new smelting projects in Siberia.

China, which accounts for 44 percent of global aluminium consumption, needs to invest in production projects to meet increasing demand over the next 5-10 years, according to RUSAL.

"We have constantly confirmed that China is a priority market for RUSAL's development. The signing of the agreement with the Russian Ministry of Economic Development aims to reinforce our joint efforts to increase the presence of Russia in the region," Soloviev said.

Three-month aluminium was down 0.6 percent to $2,003 per tonne by 1425 GMT.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Dan Lalor)

(Polina.Devitt@thomsonreuters.com; +7 495 775 12 42 Reuters Messaging: polina.devitt.reuters.com@reuters.net)

Keywords: RUSAL CHINA/