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Russia Agrees On Loan To Belarus To Settle Gas Issue

Moscow, 25 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has agreed to grant Belarus a loan to assure continued gas supplies by Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom.

The agreement was reached late yesterday in talks in Moscow between Russia's Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ululyukaev and Belarusian Finance Minister Nikolai Korbut.

The exact amount of the loan is to be determined by the volume specified in Belarus's contracts with Gazprom. Negotiations on those contracts are to continue today in Moscow between officials from Gazprom and Belarus's Beltranshaz company.

Belarus is almost totally dependent on Russian gas for its energy supplies. It has accused Moscow of trying to take control of Beltranshaz, its gas-transportation network.

Gazprom has said it wants to take 50 percent stake in Beltranshaz if Belarus wants to keep subsidized prices for Russian imports.