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    WILL GAZPROM SELL GAS TO BELARUS ON DOMESTIC PRICES? COMPANY WILLING TO RESUME TALKS AFTER JOINT VENTURE APPEARS

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    MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - After Russia and Belarus establish a gas-piping joint venture, Gazprom will be ready to resume negotiations on exporting gas to that country on Russian domestic prices, says Sergei Kupriyanov, Russian gas monopoly press secretary.

    Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky of Belarus hopes his country will have to import Russian gas on commercial prices only before the venture is set up, he remarked to newsmen in Minsk, earlier on the day.

    He said he could not see just why the Gazprom intended to cede Beltransgaz Co. at balance cost within three or four months.

    "We don't mean a balance cost at all-what we mean is a contract price," Mr. Kupriyanov said to Novosti by way of comment.

    The Gazprom has roughly evaluated the Beltransgaz at US$600 million. "That's our preliminary estimation, and it is up to independent corporate auditors to say yes or no to it. We have offered a list of three auditing companies to Belarus to make its own choice. These are companies well established in the world, and we think their opinions deserve to be reckoned with. As for the Gazprom's balance cost, it is far higher than its market evaluation," explained the Gazprom chief of PR.

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