Nord Stream operator says Estonia measures will not stop project -1

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Nord Stream AG, the operator of a natural gas pipeline being built under the Baltic, said Thursday it believes Estonia's restrictions on seabed research will not hold back the project.
(Adds details, background in paras 4-8)

MOSCOW, September 20 (RIA Novosti) - Nord Stream AG, the operator of a natural gas pipeline being built under the Baltic, said Thursday it believes Estonia's restrictions on seabed research will not hold back the project.

Earlier in the day the Estonian government rejected Nord Stream AG's request to approve the Russian-German company's research on the Baltic Sea bed within its territory.

"Europe needs the Nord Stream project," company spokesperson Irina Vasilyeva said. "We expect to settle all differences in its implementation through dialogue between the parties involved."

State-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom [RTS: GAZP] holds a 51% stake in Switzerland-registered Nord Stream AG, while Germany's BASF and E.ON. own 24.5% each. The ambitious Nord Stream pipeline, designed to transport natural gas from Russia's Arctic to Europe, is estimated at around $12 billion and is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

The request to explore the seabed in Estonian commercial waters was made in May following protests by Finland, whose waters the pipeline from Russia to Germany was initially planned to cross, over high environmental risks.

"Considering Estonian sovereignty in its territorial waters and state interests in its commercial waters, the government rejected Nord Stream's request to conduct research on Estonia's seabed," an Estonian government spokesman said earlier on Thursday.

"We need time to consider in detail all aspects of Estonia's decision," Vasilyeva said. "Nord Stream is... the only means of compensating for the natural gas shortfall in Europe."

A source close to the project said Finland had recently proposed a plan to move Nord Stream's route to the north or south of its economic zone, making the pipeline pass through Estonian territory.

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