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Greece to join Russia pipeline into Europe

June 26, 2007 7:11 AM

ISTANBUL, Turkey-Greece says it will take part in the construction of a natural gas pipeline that will run under the Black Sea, linking Russia with customers in Europe.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of Greece made the announcement about the South Stream pipeline Monday after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at an economic forum comprising countries in the Black Sea region.

"This is a very important project, which will help bolster energy security but also diversify supplies of natural gas to the European Union," Karamanlis said at the forum in Istanbul. "Greece, after examining this subject in collaboration with Russia, Bulgaria and Italy, is ready to proceed with this major project."

Italian energy company Eni SpA and Russia's state-controlled OAO Gazprom said this past weekend that they had signed a memorandum of understanding on the possibility of supplying Russian gas to European Union countries through the South Stream pipeline.

Construction could begin in 2008 or 2009, and the pipeline's annual capacity could be 30 billion cubic meters (1.15 trillion cubic feet).

Under the plan, more than 900 kilometers (550 miles) of pipeline could be laid down under the sea and across Bulgaria before splitting off in two directions, north through Hungary to reach Austria, and south through Greece and on to Otranto, a port near the southeastern tip of Italy, the Italian news agency Apcom said.

"It is clear that Greece is becoming an international energy hub for the transport of oil, electricity and now natural gas," Karamanlis said. He noted Greek involvement in other energy transportation projects, including the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline to transport Russian oil from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, and a Greek-Turkish pipeline that will be extended undersea to Italy.

There has been some concern about deepening European dependence on energy from Moscow, which grew sharper after Russia cut gas taps to Ukraine, and by extension customers farther west, in a political dispute in early 2006. A year later, oil supplies through Belarus were reduced in another dispute.

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