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    Belarus, Russia leaders to discuss natural gas on Monday

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    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday he would discuss next year's price for Russian gas supplies and other issues at talks with his Russian counterpart next Monday.

    MINSK, December 18 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday he would discuss next year's price for Russian gas supplies and other issues at talks with his Russian counterpart next Monday.

    "Gas prices are one of a whole range of issues that I want to discuss with the Russian president [Dmitry Medvedev]," Lukashenko told state media.

    Belarus earlier requested that Russia cut gas prices due to the falling oil price on global markets.

    Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko and Alexei Miller, CEO of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, met in Moscow earlier on Thursday to discuss supplies to Belarus for next year.

    Semashko earlier said Belarus would insist on an additional agreement at talks with Russia to adjust the current gas price formula agreed on in 2006. The document fixed the price for 2007 at 100 per 1,000 cu m, but set quarterly prices from January 2008, as Gazprom is seeking a gradual climb to European pricing levels.

    In the first and second quarters of 2008, Belarus paid $119 and $127 for Russian gas respectively. In 2009, the price is to grow to $200.

    Semashko said the 2006 agreement was based on an oil price of $61 per barrel. Crude prices dropped to about $38 a barrel on Thursday amid the global financial crisis, despite OPEC's second cut in output earlier this week.

    Belarus, a major transit country for Russian Europe-bound energy supplies, signed an agreement with Russia in November to receive a $2 billion loan, with $1 billion to be lent this year, and the other half in 2009. In late 2007, Russia provided a $1.5 billion stabilization loan for 15 years to pay for energy supplies.

    Earlier in 2007, Gazprom signed a deal to purchase a 50% stake in Beltransgaz for $2.5 billion. Gazprom will make equal payments in four stages from 2007 to 2010, acquiring a 12.5% stake in Beltransgaz at each stage, giving the Russian gas monopoly greater control over supplies to Central and Western European consumers.

    Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky reaffirmed on Thursday that Gazprom would supply 21.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas to the country next year.

    "Russia is interested in cooperation with Belarus in many spheres. These range from defense to socioeconomic issues," Lukashenko said.

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