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EU-Russia Meeting Overshadowed By Gas Spat

EC President Jose Manuel Barroso (file photo) (epa) 7 December 2005 (RFE/RL) -- A meeting of the European Commission and part of the Russian government in Brussels was overshadowed by worsening tensions between Russia and Ukraine over gas transit.

Russia is asking Ukraine to pay world market prices for gas, offering in return to pay market prices for transit.

Ukraine, which has refused the offer, currently receives cheap gas from Russia in return for its free transit to Europe.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said today he does not believe deliveries to Europe -- accounting for one-quarter of its total gas imports -- will be affected.

"I hope that this question of course will be solved, we are not dramatizing it, we hope that in a good spirit this question can be solved," Barroso said.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, speaking alongside Barroso, said a new agreement with Ukraine will be signed "very soon."

EU and Russia discussed a range of issues at the meeting, and agreed to start consultations about replacing the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement after its expiry in 2007 with a new accord, possibly also creating new institutions for cooperation.

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