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European countries agree to new pipeline route

TURKEY and four European Union countries formally agreed yesterday to route a new gas pipeline across their territories in an attempt to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian gas.

The Nabucco project can't entirely break Europe's dependence on Russian exports - it may in fact require supplies from Russia to fill its 31 billion cubic meters of capacity - but seeks rather to diversify the region's energy sources.

The prime ministers of Turkey, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary signed a deal to allow the pipeline to cross their countries, linking Europe to gas resources in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Iraq, Egypt and Syria all said yesterday that they were ready to contribute gas, as did Turkmenistan last Friday. Azerbaijan - one of the most likely contributors - said it is giving priority to the project.

"Nabucco will provide energy security to Turkey, to South East Europe and to Central Europe. Nabucco is thus a truly European project," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. "Turkey and the EU have tackled together a common challenge: the security and diversification of their energy supplies."

Russia provides over a quarter of Europe's gas, and 80 percent of that moves over Ukrainian pipelines.

Nabucco's impact is likely to remain small, as the volume of gas it can carry will be no more than 5 percent of Europe's consumption.

The 3,300 kilometer projected pipeline would run from the Caspian Sea across Turkey to Austria and involves investments of 8 billion euros (US$10.26 billion), according to EU data.


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