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Belarus, Russia Sign New Gas Delivery Contract

Russia and Belarus have signed a new contract for 2007 gas supplies.

Under the deal reached late Sunday, Belarus will pay $100 for 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, just below the price the Russians had demanded earlier.

The agreement also calls for Russia's state-run gas monopoly Gazprom to purchase 50 percent of the shares in Belarusian pipeline network, Beltransgaz.

The last minute deal will ensure uninterrupted supplies of gas not only to Belarus but to Western European countries that receive Russian gas through Belarusian pipelines.

Gazprom had been threatening to cut the natural gas supply to Belarus on Monday unless an agreement was reached on a price increase.

Belarusian officials had threatened to retaliate for any gas cutoff by disrupting Russian gas supplies crossing its territory to Europe.

Gazprom demanded Belarus to pay a market-driven price of $105 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas beginning January 1. As a close Russian ally, Belarus has been paying roughly $46.

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