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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE: Oil News Roundup: December 28, 2006 4:39 p.m.

Crude-oil futures broke a four-day losing streak, settling at $60.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after data showed a bigger-than-expected drawdown in crude supplies in the latest week.

Here is Thursday’s roundup of oil and energy news:

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RUSSIA, BELARUS HEAD FOR SHOWDOWN: Russia and the former Soviet state of Belarus are heading toward a showdown over natural-gas prices that both sides warn could lead to a New Year’s Day pipeline shutoff similar to the one a year ago, when thermometers plunged in Ukraine and Europe. Gazprom’s willingness to threaten yet another midwinter fuel cutoff is reinforcing fears across Western Europe about its reliance on Russia for the energy that powers the region.

•Russia Proposes Fund for Oil Money: The Russian Finance Ministry has proposed establishing an Oil and Gas Fund to control spending the country’s vast flow of oil and gas revenues, the Russian News and Information Agency reports.

•Paying Price for Mudslide: Energy-exploration company PT Lapindo Brantas will have to shoulder about $420 million in costs for dealing with a mud flow in East Java and compensating people affected by the disaster. The mud flow began in May, displaced about 17,000 people and is still flowing.

•Weather Hampers Pipeline Plug: Bad weather hampered efforts to plug a ruptured undersea pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico that has spilled about 43,000 gallons of crude.

•Shell Calls Field Viable: Royal Dutch Shell declared one of its Brazilian offshore oil fields to be commercially viable.

•China Wins Uzbek Deal: China National Petroleum Corp. won a license from Uzbekistan’s Uzbekneftegaz to explore five onshore oil-and-gas blocks.

•China’s Coal Demand to Rise: China’s coal demand in 2007 is expected to rise 4.2% from 2006 to 2.5 billion metric tons.

•China Probes Pollution Data: China’s environmental watchdog is investigating whether local officials submitted fake pollution data to the central government after failing to meet annual clean air targets.

•Indian Crackdown in Assam: Indian authorities have accused oil companies of polluting rivers and destroying rainforests in Assam state and have threatened them with closure, Reuters reports.

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