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Greek, Bulgarian PMs to discuss South Stream's future in Sofia

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Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will visit Bulgaria on Tuesday in a bid to persuade the Bulgarian authorities to give the green light for the construction of the South Stream pipeline designed to transport Russian gas to western Europe.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will visit Bulgaria on Tuesday in a bid to persuade the Bulgarian authorities to give the green light for the construction of the South Stream pipeline designed to transport Russian gas to western Europe.

According to the Greek prime minister's press service, Papandreou is expected to discuss economic cooperation with his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borisov. The prime ministers will also head the first joint meeting of Greek-Bulgarian ministerial councils.

Earlier, the Greek deputy energy minister, Yiannis Maniatis, said Papandreou was planning to discuss with Borisov the construction of the South Stream pipeline, which, he said, remains a priority in Greece's energy policies.

The South Stream project, in which Russia, Bulgaria and Greece are partners, stipulates the construction of a 300-kilometre pipeline from Burgas on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast to Alexandroupolis on the Greek Aegean Sea coast. The pipeline, which is considered a rival to the EU-backed Nabucco, is scheduled to be launched in December 2015.

Russia and Bulgaria signed an agreement on the South Stream project in January 2008, and both financial and technical preparations were scheduled to be put together by mid-2010.

However, Russia's energy giant Gazprom announced in June the possibility of re-routing South Stream through Romania, instead of Bulgaria, after Borisov said that his country would not participate in the project over environmental concerns.

Later, Borisov said that the Bulgarian government had not made a final decision. On July 16, Russia and Bulgaria signed a road map for the technical and economic assessment of Bulgaria's section of the pipeline.

Mikhail Barkov, the vice president of Russia's oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, said on Monday that Bulgaria continued to consider the project "as far as profit and ecological risks are concerned." However, he said he believed the Bulgarian partners would "understand that it is not reasonable to abandon the project."

Intergovernmental agreements have been signed between Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria for the implementation of the section of the pipeline that will run over land.

The offshore part, operated by Russia's Gazprom and Italy's ENI, will run for 900 km (559 miles) from Russia's mainland under the Black Sea to the Bulgarian coast and carry up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas a year.

ATHENS, July 27 (RIA Novosti)

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