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Dudley's absence will help resolve TNK-BP row - Russian official

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The TNK-BP chief's departure from Russia will help resolve the long-running conflict over management of the Russian-British joint oil venture, a senior Russian government official said Friday.
MOSCOW, July 25 (RIA Novosti) - The TNK-BP chief's departure from Russia will help resolve the long-running conflict over management of the Russian-British joint oil venture, a senior Russian government official said Friday.

The official, who declined to be identified, also denied the government had a role in the conflict between the British oil giant and its Russian billionaire partners, who have demanded Robert Dudley's dismissal over management and strategy.

TNK-BP said Thursday that Dudley would temporarily leave Russia to run the company from abroad. The firm blamed a campaign of harassment in the boardroom struggle at Russia's third largest oil producer.

"Dudley's decision was hardly spontaneous," the government official said. "He was unlikely to have made it on his own. This means Dudley's departure was a joint decision by shareholders... It can be treated as a step toward resolving the conflict."

"This is a Russian-British decision to be followed by rapprochement," he said.

The BP-appointed U.S. executive, who has been accused by the consortium of Russian shareholders of acting only in BP's interests, said he was leaving due to the failure of the Russian authorities to renew his visa.

"In the light of the uncertainties surrounding the status of my work visa and the sustained harassment of the company and myself I have decided to leave and to work outside Russia temporarily," Dudley said in a statement.

TNK-BP said Dudley would remain the company's general director and management board chairman and would retain the authority to run the firm. It is not immediately clear from where he will run the joint venture.

However, the Russian official said Dudley could have stayed as his transit visa, which is to expire Monday, could be extended many times.

BP CEO Tony Hayward said on Thursday the company would "use all means at its disposal, both inside and outside of Russia, to defend its interests and rights as a 50 percent shareholder in TNK-BP."

The Russian official said the government had not changed its position of noninterference in the dispute, but admitted the Russian shareholders could have used some administrative resources.

"This is a corporate conflict. There should be no talk of any state interference," he said.

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