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    GAZPROM WILL ONLY SUPPLY GAS TO BELARUS AT SPECIAL PRICES IF BELTRANSGAZ SELLS 50% OF ITS SHARES

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    MOSCOW, February 16 (RIA Novosti) - The deputy chairman of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexander Ryazanov said Gazprom is ready to recommence the discussion of supplying gas to Belarus at Russian prices only if the price of the Beltransgaz joint-stock company is fair and Beltransgaz sells at least 50% of its shares.

    Mr. Ryazanov said in an interview with Izvestia on Monday, "if we set up a single state, Beltransgaz correspondingly enters the Gazprom system and becomes part of this state's single system of gas supply. This is impossible if the block of shares is under 50%."

    He stated that Gazprom would return to the question of gas supplies to Belarus at Russian prices only after a joint venture is created.

    "But, frankly speaking, I no longer believe that this is possible. That is why the conditions for gas supplies are now dominating the talks. Independent suppliers cannot completely supply Belarus with gas - their own resources are simply insufficient for this," Mr. Ryazanov added.

    The government of Belarus wants to receive $5 billion for the controlling stake of Beltransgaz, whereas Gazprom is ready to pay about $600 million.

    According to Mr. Ryazanov, Gazprom could start supplying gas to Belarus even tomorrow but at market prices. A model of supplies and settlements for transit across its territory, which has already been in operation in Ukraine for a number of years, is offered to the republic.

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