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Gazprom Threatens To Cut Gas Supplies To Belarus

Moscow, 13 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Gazprom company is threatening to cut off supplies of natural gas to Belarus within days unless Minsk agrees to pay higher tariffs for its energy imports.

Belarus, which is dependent on Russian energy supplies, receives its natural gas at a heavily subsidized rate. The Russian side has sought to raise the tariff for some time.

But Gazprom Vice President Aleksandr Ryazanov issued a statement today saying negotiations had made no progress.

The company itself has delivered no gas to Belarus since the start of 2004, but independent producers Itera and Transneft have been providing the fuel under temporary contracts approved by Gazprom, which controls all export pipelines.

A company spokesman said Belarus would run out of gas supplies within five or six days unless it signed new temporary contracts with independent producers.