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Chernomyrdin Criticizes Foreign Energy Firms As Threat

Moscow, May 13 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said today that Western firms are undermining the security of the former Soviet Union by seeking to exploit the region's untapped oil and gas reserves.

Interfax news agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying "foreign states and transnational oil companies are trying to subordinate the Commonwealth of Independent States to their rules of the game, to their economic interests." The prime minister was addressing CIS oil and gas officials in Moscow.

Chernomyrdin also called for CIS states to create a body modelled on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to coordinate production, export, tariff and tax strategies.

Correspondents say the comments by Chernomyrdin are unusual because he has previously said that foreign dollars are crucial in reviving and developing Russia's energy sector.

Western companies have about 60 billion dollars in current and proposed investments in Russia alone, mostly in the northern Timan-Pechora region and offshore in the Far East.