BULGARIA FOR EXPANDING RUSSIA'S PRESENCE IN GAS SECTOR

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MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - Bulgarian Ambassador to Russia Ilian Vassilev has come out for expanding Russian companies' presence in Bulgaria's gas sector. "The prospects of expanding gas supplies in Bulgaria are vast enough. It is important that Russian companies expand their presence on the Bulgarian market," the diplomat said at a RIA Novosti press conference.

He added that the visit of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to Bulgaria would yield a few agreements on increasing Russia's oil transit via Bulgaria to Serbia and Greece.

The Bulgarian ambassador noted that negotiations on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project were concluding and that a trilateral memorandum between Russia, Bulgaria and Greece would soon be signed.

Vassilev explained that this project was originally to be financed by the state budgets, but it then became clear that the countries could not fully provide for its implementation.

"The governments can only offer their political support in this project, in particular, provision of low risks," the ambassador stressed. He also noted that to this end, the trilateral memorandum would be signed.

As for the program of the October 19 visit of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to Bulgaria, the diplomat said, "the exchange of opinions would touch upon energy, transport and economic cooperation, and also interregional interaction."

To sum up the visit, a series of agreements will be signed. "If everything goes well, then a few agreements on energy and interregional interaction will be signed," said Vassilev.

According to him, the visit testifies to further consolidation of co-operation between Bulgaria and Russia. "In 2003, the trade and economic exchange between Russia and Bulgaria increased 14%," said Vassilev.

The Bulgarian ambassador also expressed satisfaction with the achievements of cooperation in the tourism sphere. "We are happy with the inflow of Russian tourists to Bulgaria," he concluded.

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