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    Nabucco trans-Caspian gas pipeline likely to be ready in 2015

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    The Western-backed Nabucco trans-Caspian gas pipeline, designed to pump Central Asian gas to Europe bypassing Russia, could come on stream in 2015, a Czech government official said.

    WARSAW, January 12 (RIA Novosti) - The Western-backed Nabucco trans-Caspian gas pipeline, designed to pump Central Asian gas to Europe bypassing Russia, could come on stream in 2015, a Czech government official said.

    "The construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline to pump gas to Europe from Asia could be completed already in 2015," Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexander Vondra said.

    Preparations for the project will be sped up now that the Czech Republic holds the EU rotating presidency, the vice-premier said.

    The $7-8 billion Nabucco pipeline, backed by the European Union and the U.S., is expected to link energy-rich Central Asia to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. Construction has been tentatively scheduled to begin in 2010.

    The recent gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices and a new contract on natural gas supplies has prompted European countries to intensify talks on the construction of an alternative gas supply route to Europe.

    The gas row between the two ex-Soviet republics led to a complete shutoff last Wednesday of Russian gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine. Around 80% of Russia's gas exports to Europe pass through Ukrainian pipes.

    The EU brokered a deal on monitoring the transit of Russian gas across Ukrainian territory at the weekend, but despite EU monitors arriving at stations in both countries deliveries have not restarted due to objections by Moscow over a declaration Kiev attached to the agreement.

    Experts say, however, that the Nabucco gas pipeline could run into difficulties, if Turkmenistan, a major natural gas producer in Central Asia, refuses to support the project.

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