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    SITUATION IN ADZHARIA MAY HARM GEORGIA'S ECONOMY

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    TBILISI, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The crisis in Adzharia has caused problems with the transportation of Caspian oil to the terminal in Batumi (capital of Adzharia and port on the Black Sea), the Georgian prime minister and the head of the Adzharia anti-crisis center, Zurab Zhvania, told reporters in Tbilisi.

    "Adzharia's railroad connections to other regions of Georgia have been fully blocked: the authorities of the Adzharian autonomy have ordered the railroad tracks to be removed on the administrative border," Mr. Zhvania said.

    This complicates "the fulfilment of Georgia's international commitments for the transit of oil across its territory," he said.

    In recent years, 700,000-800,000 metric tons of oil and oil products from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have been transported to world markets through the Batumi port.

    Georgi Khukhashvili, a representative of Georgian Railway Ltd., said on Tuesday that if the Adzharia conflict continues it may harm the European Union's TRACECA (the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport route) project, Novosti-Georgia reported.

    The transportation of Caspian oil through Georgia is crucial for this project.

    "Delays with the transportation of oil via Batumi may force operator companies to stop using the Georgian route," Mr. Khukhashvili said.

    Experts said that the Adzharia conflict jeopardizes the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project.

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