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    Moscow calls statements by U.S. ambassador in Minsk incorrect

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    Russia's Foreign Ministry said Thursday it is surprised by the statements of Karen Stewart, the U.S. ambassador in Minsk, on Russian-Belarusian relations.

    MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said Thursday it is surprised by the statements of Karen Stewart, the U.S. ambassador in Minsk, on Russian-Belarusian relations.

    While commenting on Russia's move to introduce duties on crude supplies for Belarusian refineries from 2007 and the proposal to raise the cost of Russian natural gas for Belarus by 300%, Stewart said energy should not be used as a weapon in interstate relations.

    "We believe such statements are incorrect, and in essence distort reality," the ministry said, adding that bilateral talks on energy cooperation are underway.

    The ministry said it hopes American representatives will in the future make more "weighted" statements while being guided by real facts.

    Belarus, which is building a Union State with Russia, today pays a discounted rate of $46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, but Russian energy giant Gazprom [RTS: GAZP] is now seeking a price of $200 or a controlling stake in the pipeline company Beltransgaz.

    Russia has sought to prevent losses being inflicted on its budget from crude supplies to its ex-Soviet neighbor. Belarus refines oil and re-exports it to third countries, paying no taxes to the Russian budget.

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