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U.S. Energy Secretary Warns Czechs Against Cooperating With Russia

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (left) meets with U. S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in Prague on November 14.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (left) meets with U. S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry in Prague on November 14.

PRAGUE -- U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has warned the Czech government not to choose Russia as a partner for a lucrative nuclear-energy plan.

Perry, speaking in Prague on November 14, reiterated that Russia has been using energy "as a political weapon."

He added that the "U.S. [nuclear industry] is the safest, most reliable for the job."

The Czech Republic is considering an expansion of its nuclear energy industry and the U.S.-based Westinghouse and Russia's Rosatom are considered among the main contenders for any new contract.

Perry visited the Czech Republic as part of a tour of Eastern and Central Europe as the administration of President Donald Trump seeks to encourage the purchase of natural gas from the United States or other suppliers rather than increasing purchases from Russia.

The comments largely echo what Perry said the previous day in Budapest, where he warned that Russia has historically used energy as a weapon and continues to do so.

"We should no longer allow the Kremlin to use energy as a weapon," he said in the Hungarian capital, while urging Hungary and its neighbors to reject Russian gas pipelines that Washington says are being used to cement Moscow's grip on the region.

"Russia is using a pipeline project, Nord Stream 2, and the multiline [TurkStream project], to try to solidify its control over the security and the stability of Central and Eastern Europe," he said.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said TurkStream, a pipeline under construction from Russia to Turkey, was beneficial to Hungary, since one of it branches would bring gas to Hungary's southern border via a new route.

Budapest would be willing to buy gas from Croatia, which is building a liquefied-natural-gas terminal, and from Romania, Szijjarto said.

Perry opened his tour in Poland and also visited Ukraine during his six-day tour of the region.

On November 8, he attended the signing of a long-term contract between Poland's main gas company and U.S. firm Cheniere to receive deliveries of liquefied natural gas from the United States as part of a larger effort to reduce Warsaw's energy dependence on Russia.

Perry and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met in Kyiv on November 12 and announced the launch of a strategic energy dialogue and discussed prospects of developing oil and gas reserves in Ukraine -- a country which Perry said could become "the Texas of Europe."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, Interfax and AP
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