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    MOSCOW, APRIL 5, 2004, (RIA NOVOSTI) - Russia is opposed to other Caspian nation's proposal to build pipelines across the Caspian seabed, Viktor Kalyuzhny, Deputy Foreign Minister and the Russian President's Special Representative for Caspian Affairs, said at a press conference on the RIA Novosti premises Monday. He explained Russia's opposition by the sea's unique eco-system and also by the fact that the area is prone to earthquakes.

    That said, however, Russia rules out the possibility of using force to settle the controversy. "We [the Russian side] propose that the issue of laying a pipeline across the Caspian seabed should be resolved on the basis of a consensus between all of the Caspian states. Such projects cannot be undertaken unless there are sufficient guarantees of their safety. The Caspian is a unique reservoir, an inland sea with a distinctive ecology. Thus, for instance, if an oil leak occurs in the sea's northern part, [the oil] will spread to the south in a matter of two or three days," Mr. Kalyuzhny pointed out.

    In reply to a RIA question, Russia's Special Representative for Caspian Affairs said that as far as inland navigation (specifically, in the Volga-Don canal) is concerned, Russia would be pushing for the facilitation of the permissive regime. According to him, this is one of the major issues with regard to the preparation of a convention on the Caspian Sea's legal status.

    "A permissive regime is now in place in Russia's inland waters today. In the context of the preparation of a convention on the Caspian Sea's legal status, the Russian side agrees only to the facilitation of the effective permissive regime," Mr. Kalyuzhny said.

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