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    TRANS NAFTA CUTS BELARUS OFF FROM GAS

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    MOSCOW, February 18 (RIA Novosti) - Trans Nafta, a Russian private company, has suspended natural gas supplies to Belarus because Belarus has exhausted the natural gas quota provided for in its contract with Trans Nafta, Denis Vinogradov, Trans Nafta's natural gas department head told RIA Novosti.

    On Tuesday Trans Nafta offered Belarus an extra 640 million cubic meters of natural gas to cover the country's needs in February. The rate remained $46.7 per thousand cubic meters. The company's representative said Minsk has not responded yet.

    According to RIA Novosti, Minsk is stalling another deal in which ITERA, an independent Russian company, would supply additional gas to Belarus at $50 per thousand cubic meters. Minsk argues that the price is not right.

    Similarly, the talks between Alexei Miller, the president of the Gazprom state-owned company, and Pyotr Petukh, the director general of the Belarussian natural gas transit company Beltransgaz, went nowhere.

    Belarus wants to buy natural gas at Russian prices. Gazprom, which has recently stopped supplying Belarus, is ready to review the matter at the negotiating table only after acquiring 50% of Beltransgaz shares. Gazprom has pinned the value at $600 million, whereas Minsk wants almost 10 times more - as much as $5 billion. "Belarus can't afford to sell Beltransgaz at the book cost," said Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

    A source in Beltransgaz told RIA Novosti that on Monday in return for 50% of Beltransgaz shares Minsk asked Gazprom for a gas field in the Yamal-Nenets area in northern Siberia. The deal is likely to have been turned down because the talks have not been successful.

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