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    Business sense to dictate European pipeline partners - official

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    MOSCOW, February 9 (RIA Novosti, Irina Chumakova) - Good business sense will determine whether any new countries will join a multi-billion dollar project to supply Russian natural gas to Europe through a pipeline across the Baltic Sea floor, a senior diplomat said Thursday.

    The North European Gas Pipeline will run from Russia to Germany, but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov said that other countries could sign up to the project if it was practical.

    "The possibility of joining the NEGP project is primarily an issue of business expediency," Titov said. "If someone is interested in participating in the project, then they should apply to the international consortium that assesses the economic feasibility of proposals."

    Earlier Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said the Baltic country, which has not enjoyed the best of relationships with Russia in recent years, might join the project.

    "Although we already receive natural gas from Russia, any new possibilities [of gas deliveries] increase the guarantees of the country's energy security," Paet said.

    The agreement on the 1,200km North European Gas Pipeline, which is expected to cost at least 4 billion euros, was signed on September 8, 2005 by Russian energy giant Gazprom and German energy companies BASF and E.ON Ruhrgas. It will initially provide gas to Germany, and offshoots may subsequently be built to link it with several other countries.

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