Officials in Belarus say an agreement has been reached with Russia's state-run gas monopoly, Gazprom, on pricing for natural gas and rates of transit to Europe. But a Gazprom spokesman said no agreement has been signed. Bill Gasperini has this report for VOA from Moscow.

A Belorussian government spokesman says agreement has been reached on a new price for natural gas.

But Russian gas provider Gazprom says it is "premature" to talk of a final deal in a long-running dispute that has strained relations between the two Slavic neighbors.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupryanov says there is no final agreement until a new contract is signed.

He told Russian news agencies, the company still plans to send specialists to supervise the pipeline carrying gas across Belarus before Monday.

A delegation of Belorussian negotiators arrived in Moscow late Friday for last-ditch talks, aimed at ending the standoff before the New Year's Day deadline, when Moscow has said the gas flow might be cut off.

Last week, Belarus warned that if this happened, it would retaliate by blocking the transit of gas that goes to Germany, Lithuania and Poland.

Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller has said that he has reassured those countries that all will be done to ensure that gas deliveries will be normal.

Belarus has long paid 47-dollars per one-thousand cubic meters for its gas. Gazprom wants to raise this to 105-dollars, a price that is still less than half of what European customers pay.

But Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko says customers inside Russia pay highly subsidized rates. He says the two countries long ago signed a "union" treaty and that Belorussian consumers should be treated the same as people in Russia.

The dispute comes one year after Gazprom briefly turned off gas to neighboring Ukraine in a similar fight over prices.