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Still no welding on damaged Russia-Georgia gas pipeline

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VLADIKAVKAZ, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - Welding work to repair a Russian gas pipeline to Georgia that was damaged in a suspected terrorist attack has not started yet, a spokesman in southern Russia said Tuesday.

Vladimir Ivanov, a representative of the Emergency Situations Ministry in the Republic of North Ossetia, said the welding on the Mozdok-Tbilisi pipeline had been postponed after gas condensate began to leak through a pipe in Georgia.

"As a result, workers failed to start the welding: they had to pump out the gas condensate all night and are continuing to do so," Ivanov said.

He said that pipe layers had planned to complete the welding by the morning, to blow compressed gas through the pipes, and then to gradually fill the pipeline with gas.

However, Ivanov said the welding work had been postponed until Georgia, which is currently experiencing a cold snap, installed a new hermetic plug.

Since the accident occurred in the Russian section of the pipeline, cutting gas supplies to Georgia and Armenia, Azerbaijan has been supplying 4 million cubic meters of natural gas a day to the neighboring Georgian republic.

Georgia was also left without electricity supplies from Russia as blasts went off under transmission lines running from Russia to Georgia in a separate incident Sunday.

In an emotionally-charged response to the developments, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said the blasts were politically motivated and premeditated by Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the president's comments were "hysterics".

Relations between Russia and Georgia deteriorated following a democratic revolution in the former Soviet republic in 2003 when a popular uprising, known as the "rose revolution," brought a pro-Western government to power.

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