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    CAIRO, APRIL 1, 2004 (from RIA Novosti's Igor Kuznetsov) - Egyptian Energy Minister Sameh Fahmi said Thursday that Egypt and Russia were embarking on full-scale strategic cooperation in the oil & gas industry.

    Speaking at a regional investor conference, organized in Cairo by the Russian oil giant LUKoil Overseas, Fahmi pointed out that Russia and Egypt were at the stage of transition from separate agreements to prospect for and extract oil toward full-scale cooperation, mutual investment, specialized research, and exchange of opinions on the prospects of oil recovery. In this connection, he highlighted LUKoil's strong ties to the Egyptian petroleum sector.

    According to Fahmi, there are fifty foreign oil and gas companies operating in Egypt at the moment and the amount of foreign investment in the sector has now reached $2 billion.

    LUKoil CEO Andrei Kuzyaev said his company had recently stepped up its operations in countries of North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt, for one, the company extracts oil from four Egyptian deposits, whose total proven reserves top 254 million barrels (two of the deposits are developed under a product sharing agreement while the other two, under a concession).

    The company is planning to increase its investment in Egypt to $400 million and to bring its share in that country's total oil output up to 10 percent, the LUKoil CEO said. It is also considering the possibility of developing Egyptian natural gas reserves, he added.

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