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Belarus to set up state oil company by July 1

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MINSK, February 27 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus's first deputy premier said the country will consolidate its oil assets into a state-run oil company by July 1 as part of a long-term energy saving strategy in view of growing energy prices.

"An oil company must be formed by July 1 this year," Vladimir Semashko told the presidium of the council of ministers.

Belarus, whose budget heavily depended on the untaxed re-export of refined Russian crude to Europe, now has to pay an export duty of $53 per metric ton. Another heavy blow to the Belarusian budget came when Russia, its sole gas supplier, doubled the gas price to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters early this year.

The new oil company is expected to unite the Mozyrsky and Naftan oil refineries, the Belarusian oil trading house, and the Belarusneft production association, which will form joint fixed capital and register the new firm in western Europe.

The move is part of a draft energy-saving strategy for the nation until 2020, which the government considered Tuesday.

"Work on this document was prompted both by the new economic relations with Russia and global trends," the economics minister, Nikolai Zaichenko, said, adding that Belarus was two or even three times behind international standards in terms of GDP energy intensity.

The draft energy-saving strategy provides for reducing GDP energy intensity by at least 31% by 2010 compared with 2005, and 50% by 2015.

In 2012, a quarter of Belarus's electric and thermo-power production must be based on domestically produced fuel - peat and brown coal, the document said.

The government also plans to apply energy-saving technologies, including transform boilers into mini-thermopower plants and to re-equip refineries of the agro-industrial sector.

"By 2020, no energy supplier to Belarus must hold more than 60% of the total [national] energy imports," Zaichenko said, adding that this would help Minsk end the Russian monopoly on the Belarusian energy market.

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