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Georgia Cautions Russia On Gas Price Hikes

(RFE/RL) 2 November 2005 -- Georgia has warned Russia against using natural gas prices for political pressure or face the dismantling of a pipeline network supplying the south Caucasus energy market.

In an interview with the Russian daily "Vremya Novostei," Economy Minister Kakha Bendukidze threatened to find alternative suppliers for Georgia's energy needs.

He said Georgia could also dismantle gas pipelines running across Georgian territory to Armenia.

Russia plans to nearly double the rate it charges for gas shipped to Georgia to $110 per 1,000 cubic meters from January.

Georgia plans to start diversifying its natural gas supply next year by beginning purchases from neighboring Azerbaijan. However analysts say the country remains heavily dependent on Russia for the bulk of its supplies.