Georgian opposition demands details of Iran gas deal

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TBILISI, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - The opposition in the Georgian parliament demanded Thursday that the country's incumbent authorities make public the details of a deal struck with Iran on supplies of natural gas to ease an energy crisis in the midst of freezing temperatures.

Speaking at a news conference, Zviad Dzidziguri of the Democratic Front faction complained that Georgian parliamentarians had only learned the information about the deal from Russian media.

Another member of the opposition faction representing the Georgian Republican Party, Ivliane Khaindrava, said that on the day two blasts damaged the Russian section of a gas pipeline leading to Georgia, the country's Energy Minister Nikoloz Gilauri was on a visit in Iran.

"Accordingly, the first question to the energy minister would be whether he knew that Georgia would need to import the Iranian gas urgently, and if he did, then how he had got the information," Khaindrava said.

The Georgian authorities accused Russia of perpetrating the blasts, which shut down supplies for about a week. The Russian Foreign Ministry and energy giant Gazprom dismissed the charges.

Khaindrava also quoted Iranian and Azerbaijani media reports referring to Iran's deputy petroleum minister as saying that Georgia would have to pay $233 per 1,000 cu m of the Iranian natural gas, and that the Islamic Republic would provide 30 million cu m of gas in 30 days.

"We want an answer about on what level the agreement was signed on gas supplies from Iran and why the price is so high," Khaindrava said, adding that President Mikheil Saakashvili had returned from Iran in summer 2004 and said the country's gas price was too high.

The Democratic Front is demanding that the authorities name the mediator company involved in the deal, which could be one of the reasons for the high price. The member of the opposition also said it wanted to know whether the gas would be paid for on a barter basis or in cash.

"The people must know how the import of the Iranian gas will affect the country's budget and themselves," Khaindrava said.

The opposition faction also said it planned to invite government energy officials to parliament to answer these questions.

Georgian authorities have been keeping the gas price in secret but an Iranian official told a popular Russian daily earlier Thursday that the price would be $230 against the $110 Gazprom was seeking.

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