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Gazprom confirms Belarus paid off gas debt for 1H08

MOSCOW, August 5 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus has paid in full its natural gas debt for the first half of 2008, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said Tuesday.

"The debts for gas consumed by Belarus in the first half [of 2008] and for transit services over the period have been paid in full," the company said in a press release after a meeting between Gazprom board deputy chairman Valery Golubev, Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Rimma Filimonova and Vladimir Mayorov, the general director of the Belarusian pipeline monopoly Beltransgaz.

A Russian government source said in late June that Belarus had decided to pay for gas consumed in the second quarter of 2008 at the first-quarter price of $119.53 per 1,000 cubic meters of Russian natural gas. Minsk was expected to pay $127.9 in the second quarter.

Gazprom threatened in late July to go to court if Belarus fails to honor commitments under a gas delivery and transit contract for 2007-2011 signed between Gazprom and Beltransgaz on December 31, 2006. The document fixed the price for 2007 at $100 per 1,000 cubic meters, but used a formula to set quarterly gas prices from January 1, 2008.

Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said last Friday that Belarus had insisted that an additional agreement be signed with Russia to adjust its natural gas price for 2009.

The Belarusian official said the 2006 agreement was based on the price of $61 per metric ton of oil on the global market. Semashko also said that Russia was expected to level domestic gas prices with foreign ones from 2011, but it would only be able to do so by 2014-2015.

Belarus is one of the leading transit countries for Russian natural gas supplies to Europe.

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