Russia, Uzbekistan sign oil and gas agreements

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ST. PETERSBURG, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Uzbekistan signed several preliminary agreements to develop oil and natural gas deposits in the Central Asian republic at an economic summit in St. Petersburg Wednesday.

Russian energy giant Gazprom and Uzbek officials signed a document, stipulating basic principles of a bilateral product-sharing agreement that the sides are expected to sign in the second half of 2006.

The document was signed in the presence of the leaders of the Eurasian Economic Community (Eurasec), an economic club of former Soviet republics formed in 2000.

The organization took on Uzbekistan as a new member Wednesday. The other Eurasec members are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Abdusal Azizov, the head of Uzbekistan's state-owned oil and gas company Uzbekneftegaz, also signed a draft agreement on geological survey in Uzbekistan.

Speaking at a news conference after the summit, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said Gazprom had been authorized to conduct surveys over an area of 34,000 sq m.

Karimov said the area was rich in hydrocarbon resources, and that in adjacent territories six deposits had been discovered and were being developed.

He said Gazprom planned to invest $260 million in the survey efforts, while overall investment in the project would total at least $1.5 billion.

Miller echoed the Uzbek president's comments, saying investment in the survey efforts and production would be considerable.

"Gas to be produced in Uzbekistan will be exported only by Gazprom," Miller added.

He said the project in Uzbekistan would not affect gas production in Russia.

Miller also said Russia and Uzbekistan were considering building new gas pipelines on Uzbek territory.

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