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BBC News: Gazprom delays Belarus gas threat

Friday, 3 August 2007, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK 
 
Russia’s Gazprom has postponed the deadline for Belarus to pay its gas bill after a first instalment was paid.

It had threatened to halve supplies to the former Soviet republic if the debt was not paid by Friday, but has now given Belarus until 10 August to pay.

Belarus has made a first payment of $190m (£93m), which is 42% of the $456m Gazprom says it owes.

A delegation from Belarus has been in Moscow trying to reach a settlement with Gazprom.

The incident is a reminder of the supply disputes with ex-Soviet republics seen in 2005 and 2006.

Price rises

Belarus had previously said it needed more time to pay, blaming Gazprom’s doubling of the price it charged for the gas earlier in the year.

Under a deal agreed at the start of year, Russia increased the price per 1,000 cubic metres of gas from $46 to $100.

The price for the first half of 2007 was set at $55, but Belarus was required to pay debts of $456m to Gazprom by 23 July.

Moscow denies accusations that it uses gas supplies to bully its neighbours.

Instead, it insists that price rises last year for Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia merely reflect the end of Soviet-era subsidies.

Like Belarus, Ukraine was forced to start paying more for its Russian gas in 2006, but not before Gazprom reduced its supplies, leading to a knock-on reduction in gas passing through the country to western Europe.

This dispute sparked concern within European Union nations about their energy security and the future reliably of Russian gas, which now accounts for much of European requirements.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6929020.stm

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