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Russia, Belarus Reach Compromise Over Gas Dispute

Moscow, 24 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Private natural gas producers in Russia have agreed to cover Belarus's gas needs for another few days, despite an earlier decision by Russia's main exporter to reduce shipments by one-third.

News reports quote officials at Russia's Itera company as saying an agreement to continue gas supplies to Belarus until 29 January was struck overnight.

These officials said the compromise was made possible after Belarus agreed to the demands made by Itera and Trans Nafta, another Russian private supplier.

Russia's partially state-owned Gazprom, which holds a monopoly on export pipelines, said it will reduce the outflow of gas pumped to Belarus by one-third, starting from midnight local time.

Gazprom had earlier threatened to turn off the gas tap completely, claiming Belarus was violating the terms of its contracts with Russian producers.