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No Deal Yet in Russia-Belarus Natural Gas Dispute


Talks between Belarus and Russia's state-owned energy provider Gazprom ended Tuesday without agreement, raising the possibility of a natural gas cut-off next week if Belarus does not agree to a sharp price hike.

Gazprom has said it wants $200 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas from Belarus beginning January 1, up from the current price of $47. But the energy giant said Monday it would cut that fee in half, if the Minsk government agrees to surrender ownership of 50 percent of its state-owned pipeline.

Talks are set to continue this week. A similar dispute one year ago triggered a brief interruption of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine, and criticism from a host of European countries also affected. In Moscow today, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said there is no reason for Europe to fear a repeat of last year's crisis.

Kupriyanov said Gazprom has stockpiled reserves to cover any gas flow interruption. Last week, Gazprom signed a contract with Georgia setting its price for Russian gas at $235 per 1,000 cubic meters. Georgia has since reached a deal to buy some natural gas from Turkey at cheaper prices.

Meanwhile, Russia's Interfax news agency says there has been a delay in plans to launch a joint venture with Kazakhstan at a gas processing plant in Russia on January 1. The report said neither party has signed off on details of the venture to process gas from a huge field in western Kazakhstan. No launch date has been announced.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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