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Georgia Questions Russia's Pipeline-Repair Halt

Anti-Russian demonstrators in Tbilisi on 22 January (epa) 24 January 2006 -- Georgian Energy Minister Nika Gilauri today questioned Russia's motives for suspending repair work on the damaged Mozdok-Tbilisi gas pipeline.

Addressing reporters in Tbilisi upon his return from Azerbaijan, Gilauri said Georgian experts had doubts about the reasons given by Moscow to explain the delay.

"They say the reason is a leakage of gas condensate and they cannot tell us when the [repair] work will be completed. Our experts believe a leakage of gas condensate is entirely ruled out because just two days ago this pipeline was working normally and nothing happened then," Gilauri said.

A spokesman for the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry in North Ossetia, Vladimir Ivanov, told Russian journalists earlier today that repair work on the pipeline was suspended because of the heightened risk of explosion caused by a gas-condensate leakage.

Twin explosions on 22 Janury damaged the pipeline, bringing Russian gas supplies to Georgia and Armenia to a halt.

Georgia accuses Russia of being responsible for the blasts, while Moscow denies the charge.

Gilauri today said Azerbaijan had already supplied Georgia with 3 million cubic meters of gas to help compensate for the shortfalls and could deliver more in the near future.

He also said Russia was not part of the agreement. Russia's Gazprom monopoly earlier said it would export gas to Georgia via Azerbaijan.

(Imedi TV, Civil Georgia)

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