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Latvia, Slovenia, Finland for broader energy ties with Russia

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ST. PETERSBURG, June 13 (RIA Novosti) - The presidents of Finland and Slovenia as well as Latvia's prime minister spoke Tuesday in favor of stepping up efforts in energy security cooperation between Russia and the European Union.

Energy security is a priority of Russia's 2006 presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized nations. Moscow has sought to play down European concerns over Russia's reliability as an energy supplier after a shortfall in Russian natural gas was registered in January, when energy giant Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine in a pricing dispute.

But speaking on the opening day of the three-day International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis seemed to dispel doubts, "Russia has always been a reliable energy supplier for the European Union, particularly for Latvia."

The prime minister welcomed Russia's G8 energy-security initiative and added that new forms of cooperation could be used, including in the natural-gas sector.

Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek said in turn that the threat of conflicts over energy resources was increasing because demand for natural gas and oil exceeded supply.

"Energy security is not only about oil refineries and pipelines - it is geopolitics," Drnovsek said. "We must invest more proactively in new technologies."

He added it was also necessary to focus on a strategy to preserve energy resources and protect the environment.

Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland, said that her country and other European countries were waiting for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, a procedure that could be completed soon as Russia needs only to sign a protocol on the end of bilateral negotiations with the United States.

The Finnish leader said the participants in the forum would have an opportunity to take a look at the Russian economy from the inside, which might result in new forms of cooperation, and added that work on alternative sources of energy needed to be conducted because traditional energy resources would be sooner or later be exhausted.

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