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Putin to talk South Stream pipeline in Slovenia and Serbia

20 march 2011, 18:27
Vladimir Putin. Tengerinews.kz stock photo
Vladimir Putin. Tengerinews.kz stock photo
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will visit Slovenia and Serbia March 22-23 for talks focused on the ambitious South Stream gas pipeline to rival Europe's Nabucco project, AFP reports.

Putin will meet with Slovenia's President Danilo Turk and Prime Minister Borut Pahor on Tuesday, then travel to the Serbian capital on Wednesday for talks with President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic.

Belgrade and Ljubljana have already agreed to let the pipeline, to be built by Russian gas giant Gazprom and Italy's ENI, pass through their territory.

Slovenia signed a deal with Russia in November 2009 and Serbia agreed as part of a major energy agreement signed in December 2008, which also sealed the take-over of the NIS Serbian petrol company by Gazprom.

With a planned length of 3,600 kilometers (2,237 miles), the South Stream pipeline-- running from the Black Sea via the Balkans to western Europe -- should provide countries like Greece and Italy directly with Russian gas.

The new pipeline will bypass Ukraine, which has been at the center of several energy rows with Russia in the last few years that led to cuts of Russian gas supplies to Europe.

The project also provides direct competition to the European-backed Nabucco pipeline, due to be finished in 2013, which aims to bring gas from the Caspian Sea and Middle East countries into Europe to ease Europe's dependence on Russian gas.

Putin's talks this week are expected to focus on clearing up the last financial and legal hurdles for the South Stream project.

Putin and Tadic are also expected to finalize the terms for a planned 800-million-dollar (565-million-euro) Russian loan to be used mainly for railway infrastructure.

By Pierre Glachant

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