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Russian ministries see no sense in forming natural gas cartel

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MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's economics and industry and energy ministries see no economic justification for establishing an international natural gas cartel as proposed by Iran, experts said Monday.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke Sunday in favor of setting up "a cooperation organization in the gas sphere, similar to OPEC."

A spokesman for the Economic Development and Trade Ministry said, "I don't understand why Russia would need to create a gas cartel - I don't see any sense in this. The more so as Iran is now coming under serious external pressure."

The official said Russia should be guided by demand alone, and should not coordinate its actions with anyone.

"Why should we undertake commitments to synchronize our actions, why force ourselves into regulation frameworks which could boil down to setting quotas?" the official said.

He also said Khamenei's proposal was more political than economic.

The official said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries was established as a means of putting pressure on the U.S., and of regulating oil supplies to that county.

Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said earlier there are no objective grounds for a cartel agreement in the gas sphere.

"A gas OPEC? I can't make such forecasts. The more so as I am not the initiator of such documents, and I don't believe we should follow a cartel agreement path," Khristenko said last week during a visit to Algeria.

OPEC was founded in 1960 by major oil suppliers Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The South American nation, a long-time sufferer from oil monopolies, initiated its establishment. Today the organization also includes Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

OPEC's main aim is to coordinate the oil policy of its member states to protect their interests and ensure stable prices on world oil markets. Russia is the largest oil-producing nation outside the cartel and has the world's largest gas reserves.

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