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Kazakhstan Wants Dialogue Over Suspended Oil-Field Operations

Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov (file photo) (Courtesy Photo) ASTANA, September 12, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Talks between Kazakhstan and an Italian-led consortium over operations at the offshore Kashagan oil field on the Caspian Sea have ended without a resolution, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Late last month, the Kazakh government ordered activity at the oil field suspended for three months, citing environmental concerns as well as repeated dissatisfaction with delays and increasingly higher costs to exploit the field.

Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said today that his government has expressed its concerns during talks with Paolo Scaroni, the CEO of Eni, the Italian company that is leading the consortium operating the Kashagan oil project.

Following a September 11 meeting in Astana, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sauat Mynbaev announced that Kazakhstan welcomes "an open dialogue" to resolve the dispute.

But he also warned that problems over the development of the offshore oil field should "not to be politicized."

Eni has pushed back the start of production at the field from 2008 to late 2010. The total projected cost for operating the Kashagan field has also spiked, going from initial estimates of $57 billion to some $136 billion.

(with Interfax-Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS)

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