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    Gazprom's gas exports drop almost 50% since start of year - paper

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    Gazprom's natural gas exports to countries other than former Soviet republics declined by 16 billion cubic meters to 24 billion cubic meters from January 1 to March 15, a business paper reported

    MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - Gazprom's natural gas exports to countries other than former Soviet republics declined by 16 billion cubic meters to 24 billion cubic meters from January 1 to March 15, a business paper reported on Wednesday.

    Vedomosti also reported, citing data of the central dispatch office in the fuel and energy complex that Gazprom's natural gas production was continuing to decline in March.

    Gazprom's natural gas output fell 21% from March 1 to March 16 as compared with the same period last year and 9% in February 2009, Vedomosti reported.

    A Gazprom senior manager told the paper that falling exports could be explained by the desire of European consumers to limit purchases of expensive gas as they sought to optimize the use of natural gas from storage facilities while waiting for prices to fall.

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