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    U.S. says Caspian pipelines bypassing Russia not against Gazprom

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    Pipelines in the Caspian region bypassing Russia do not spell confrontation with the country's energy giant Gazprom, a senior United States official said Wednesday.

    BAKU, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - Pipelines in the Caspian region bypassing Russia do not spell confrontation with the country's energy giant Gazprom, a senior United States official said Wednesday.

    Speaking at an oil conference in Azerbaijan's capital, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Matthew Bryza said the U.S. welcomed supplies to Europe via the well-developed pipeline network run by Gazprom, but that U.S.-Russia energy relations would only gain from robust competition.

    Bryza said the South Caucasus natural gas pipeline, currently pumping gas from Azerbaijan's Shakh Deniz field in the Caspian Sea to Georgia, offered little competition to the Russian monopoly. He also said Washington was working with Iraq and Turkey to connect them to the pipeline.

    Azerbaijan's energy and industry minister earlier said the Caspian country could start supplies to Turkey as soon as Ankara was ready to receive them.

    Bryza said in 2012-2015 that Azerbaijan would supply Europe with 12 billion cu m of gas from its Shakh Deniz field alone, raise supplies to 15 billion by 2015, and increase them further by 2015-2020.

    At the forum in Baku, Bryza urged investment in Nabucco, the $6 billion gas pipeline project to link the energy-rich Caspian Sea to Europe, bypassing Russia. He cited independent experts who said transiting 1,000 cu m of gas via the pipeline, expected to go on stream in 2011, would cost $2.5.

    The European Union expects the project to diversify its pipeline routes away from Russia and boost European energy security.

    Nabucco, planned as an arm of the South Caucasus pipeline and expected to run through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, is seen as a rival to the gas pipeline deal recently clinched by Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the region's major gas producers, May 12.

    The three former Soviet allies agreed to build a pipeline along the Caspian Sea coast to pump billions of cubic meters of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan into Russia's network of pipelines running to Europe.

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