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    RUSSIA READY TO INCREASE GAS SUPPLIES TO AZERBAIJAN

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    MOSCOW, February 6, 2004. /RIA Novosti correspondent/ - Russia is ready to increase gas supplies to Azerbaijan, Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov has announced.

    "Cooperation in trade and economic sphere is developing dynamically, we are increasing gas supplies to Azerbaijan," the minister told journalists on Friday.

    This year gas distributors Gazexport and Itera signed contracts on delivery to Azerbaijan of up to 5 cubic meters of natural gas, he recalled.

    "If there is additional demand, we will be ready to increase the supplies," Yusufov emphasized.

    According to him, this can be done due to the production level and pipeline capacities.

    When speaking on cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan in the oil sector, the minister pointed out that oil transit from Baku to Novorossiisk (Russia's port on the Black Sea) last year amounted to 2.7 million tons.

    "We are interested in increasing the transit volume on the route," he added.

    In compliance with the present agreement the oil transit volume may amount to 5 million tons, the minister recalled. However, the oil pipeline's capacity is 15 million tons, he pointed out.

    Now the parties are holding negotiations on a long-term agreement on the issues. He estimates that the agreement can be signed for up to 15 years.

    In this connection, Yusufov pointed out that "Moscow is ready to make advances". Russia is even ready to lower tariffs for oil pumping, he said.

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