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Bulgaria: Prime Minister Doubts Claims About Gas Reserves

Sofia, 12 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's caretaker Prime Minister, Stefan Sofianski, said today that he seriously doubts claims by the state's gas company about the nation's gas reserves.

Petar Sabev, director of the state-owned BulgarGaz, said yesterday that Bulgaria has enough natural gas reserves to meet the country's needs for the next 20 years.

Sabev claimed that the reserves are in four separate locations. But he said their exact location is a "trade secret." Sabev also announced that BulgarGaz has started negotiations with the U.S. company ARCO for joint exploitation of the reserves.

Bulgaria is entirely dependent on Russia for natural gas. Several consecutive Bulgarian governments have made negotiations with Russia's Gazprom a top priority. So far, however, no agreement has been reached on prices and transit fees.

In Moscow last month, Sofianski signed an agreement on imports and deliveries of Russian gas that pass through Bulgaria. But the agreement does not specify prices and fees.