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    The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a "gas equivalent" of the OPEC oil cartel, will convene on Monday in the Algerian city of Oran to decide whether to raise prices for gas supplies to Europe and other regions.

    The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a "gas equivalent" of the OPEC oil cartel, will convene on Monday in the Algerian city of Oran to decide whether to raise prices for gas supplies to Europe and other regions, the Russian energy minister said.

    Sergei Shmatko said participants in the forum's tenth ministerial meeting will discuss the situation "in certain regional markets, including the European market."

    He said Russia, which holds the bulk of the world's known reserves of natural gas, together with Qatar and Iran, had earlier significantly decreased natural gas supplies to Europe, which helped avoid major fluctuations in gas prices.

    In late March, Algeria proposed countries participating in the forum to reduce gas exports to restore balance in the global gas market.

    Algerian energy minister Chakib Khelil said current gas prices were too low and should be raised. He has said the ideal price for gas should account for one sixth of the price for a barrel of oil.

    Shmatko said "we consider that gas prices should be fair, based on long-term contracts", adding that European countries were welcome for negotiations.

    He said Khelil was going to make a presentation of his view of the situation during the talks in Oran, adding some of the measures already proposed by the Algerian energy minister were "timely."

    Russia, Algeria, as well as Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela are members of the GECF. Kazakhstan and Norway are observers.

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said he expected that the GECF, which is now making its first steps, will become an effective tool for coordinating the international gas industry in the future.

    In December last year, Shmatko said the forum would become fully operational in 2010.

    The GECF headquarters is situated in Qatar's capital Doha. In December 2009, the GECF elected Russian Leonid Bokhanovsky as its secretary general.

    Shmatko also said the gas forum would play a key role in coordinating activity on the market of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as it comprised the world's largest LNG producing countries.

    ORAN (ALGERIA)

     

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