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    Iran offers Georgia assistance in handling energy crisis

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    TBILISI, January 25 (RIA Novosti, Marina Kvaratskhelia) - Iran has offered Georgia assistance to resolve the recent energy crisis that has hit the country after key natural gas and electricity supply lines from Russia were disrupted at the weekend, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

    On Sunday, the Mozdok-Tbilisi gas pipeline in the Republic of North Ossetia was damaged in explosions, cutting gas supplies to Georgia and Armenia. A similar incident knocked out an electricity line in the region. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili condemned the blasts as political and premeditated acts undertaken by Russia, though the Russian Foreign Ministry and energy giant Gazprom dismissed the claims.

    The Georgian ministry said the country's energy experts and their Iranian colleagues were currently working on the issue, and the two nations' foreign ministers had spoken about the matter Wednesday.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Motaki Manuchehr "expressed regret over the energy problems and voiced [his country's] readiness to provide assistance by delivering Iranian gas," the Georgian ministry said.

    A Georgian Fuel and Energy Ministry representative said Sunday that Georgia could start importing Iranian gas - reportedly at $120 per 1,000 cu m via the Georgia-Azerbaijan-Iran pipeline - if the problem persisted. Saakashvili said the Iranian gas would be $10 more expensive that Russian supplies, but it would be "a guarantee in case there are problems with Russian gas."

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