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    RUSSIAN NEGOTIATORS AGAINST WTO ACCESSION BEING TIED UP TO LIBERALIZATION OF GAS INDUSTRY

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    MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is willing to provide equal, non-discriminatory access to its gas pipelines for domestic and foreign producers alike, a source close to WTO accession negotiations told RIA. One more round of the accession talks was held in Moscow earlier this week.

    Russia agrees that it will need to liberalize its gas industry some time in the future, but this must not be a condition for its accession to the World Trade Organization, our interviewee pointed out.

    "We cannot do everything at one stroke. We believe that as the first step, it would be right to provide equal access [to pipelines] for all independent operators, whether Russian or foreign," said the source. But the construction of private pipelines in Russia is out of the question, he added.

    A more difficult problem is bringing domestic gas prices on a par with the world's. This just does not seem realistic right now, our interviewee emphasized. Higher gas prices will result in a majority of Russia's companies going bankrupt. Industrial facilities need first to be re-fitted with equipment enabling their transition to energy-saving technologies, and the paying capacity of individual consumers needs to be enhanced.

    "Gas is a natural advantage helping Russia to cope with its cold winters and to overcome its unnatural lag in energy-saving technologies. Why, then, shouldn't Russia make the most of this advantage?" the source said.

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