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    Central Asia to sell gas at European-level prices in 2009-Gazprom

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    Ex-Soviet Central Asian states will begin exporting their natural gas at European-level prices from 2009, Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, said on Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, March 11 (RIA Novosti) - Ex-Soviet Central Asian states will begin exporting their natural gas at European-level prices from 2009, Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, said on Tuesday.

    "Guided by their national economic interests and taking into account international commitments to ensure uninterrupted energy supplies, natural gas will be sold at European-level prices starting from 2009," Gazprom said, referring to officials in the national energy companies of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

    Gazprom buys Central Asian gas at lower prices than it sells to Europe. The planned increase therefore promises an according price rise for European consumers.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Miller met with the chiefs of Kazakhstan's KazMunaiGaz, Uzbekistan's Uzbekneftegaz, and Turmenistan's Turkmengaz in Moscow to discuss future cooperation.

    Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said earlier, citing expert estimates, that the average gas price for Europe could grow to $360 per 1,000 cubic meters by the end of 2008.

    Under a contract Gazprom and Turkmenistan signed last November, the Russian company will buy Turkmen gas at $130 per 1,000 cu m in the first half of 2008 and $150 in the second half of the year, and in 2009 the price is to be calculated based on market trends. Until at least 2009, Gazprom is to purchase 50 billion cu m a year from the country.

    Gazprom is currently believed to be paying $180 per 1,000 cu m for Uzbek gas against $100 last year.

    Russia transits 55 billion cu m of gas from both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan via Kazakhstan under a 2005 contract.

    Gas from the Central Asian region is transported to Europe via Gazprom-controlled pipelines.

    Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan signed a deal in December to supply the Asian states' Caspian gas via Russia, dealing a blow to the rival Western-backed Nabucco pipeline. Moscow also reached deals with Bulgaria and Serbia earlier this year on the South Stream pipeline to pump Central Asian gas to Europe.

    The announcement came as Russia and Ukraine tried to resolve a new dispute over Kiev's natural gas debt and a supply scheme for 2008.

    The former Soviet allies agreed last year to supply gas at $179 for 1,000 cubic meters in 2008 for Central Asian gas brought by Gazprom. The price for Russian gas was set at $315 per 1,000 cubic meters.

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