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Latvia set to propose alternative to Nord Stream

MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Latvia plans to offer Gazprom the possibility of building a gas pipeline across its territory as an alternative to Nord Stream, the Latvian president said on Friday.

Construction of the 1,220 km pipeline to pump 27.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually under the Baltic Sea is tentatively due to begin in 2010. It expected to go on stream in 2011 and will export Russian natural gas to Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, France and Denmark.

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, Valdis Zatlers said Nord Stream "is a joint Russian-German project" that can give Latvia neither commercial benefit nor opportunities for cooperation.

However, he said, if a gas pipeline was laid not on the seabed but on land, Latvia "could make available its gas storage facilities."

The president also said Nord Stream was environmentally hazardous as, unlike the North Sea, "there is no water exchange" in the Baltic Sea.

"Basically, it's a lake," he said.

At the same time he said Latvia would not hinder Nord Stream's implementation if all environmental concerns were addressed.

Gazprom holds a 51% stake in Nord Stream AG, the project operator. Germany's Wintershall Holding and E.ON Ruhrgas control 20% each, and the remaining 9% belongs to Dutch Gasunie.

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