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Georgian PM Rejects Russian Natural Gas Price Hike


Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli has rejected as "political blackmail" Russia's plans to more than double natural gas prices for his country and pledged to seek other sources.

He told a cabinet session talks are under way with other countries and said Georgia will accept the best offer.

Russia's state-run natural gas firm Gazprom last week said it will raise Georgia's price from $110 per 1,000 cubic meters to $230 beginning next year.

Gazprom officials have suggested that Georgia sell the Russian firm some of its energy infrastructure to subsidize the price increase, an apparent reference to Georgian gas pipelines. But Georgian officials insist they will not sell the Russians the facilities. Opposition activists in Tbilisi have criticized the government and have urged compromise.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply since Georgian police briefly arrested four Russian officers in September on spy charges.

Moscow responded by cutting transportation and postal links with Georgia. Russia also expelled scores of Georgians from Moscow and closed their businesses.

Moscow has consistently argued that price hikes for Georgia and earlier for Ukraine are long-overdue adjustments toward market pricing. However, the United States and European governments have accused the Kremlin of using economic arguments as a pretext to punish its former Soviet neighbors for moves to develop closer ties with the West.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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