September 4, 2006

Russia’s Putin to discuss oil pipeline in Athens

ATHENS (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives
in Athens on Monday to discuss with Greece and Bulgaria a
long-delayed trans-Balkan oil pipeline, envisaged to decongest
the busy Bosphorus Straits.

The 700 million euro ($897.1 million) project, which has
stumbled on horse-trading between the three countries involved
for about a decade, was planned to bring cheaper Russian crude
to the Mediterranean and strengthen Moscow's grip on the
region's energy market.

Greek officials said Putin will be discussing several
energy projects during his one day visit but will mainly focus
on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, which has finally won
approval from all sides involved last year.

About 155 km of the pipeline, which will eventually have a
daily capacity of about 800,000 barrels, will pass through
Bulgaria and Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, will also
attend the meeting.

For years, the three countries disagreed on key issues,
such as who will build the pipeline, the ownership of the
terminals and transit fees.

The pipeline will initially bring 10 million tonnes of
crude a year from the Black Sea port of Burgas to the north
Aegean town of Alexandroupolis, bypassing the Bosphorus
Straits, avoiding sea traffic and reducing environmental risks
from oil spills.

Its capacity is designed to eventually reach 35 million
tonnes some three years after its launch, which is expected in