Russia seeks Belarus gas firm amid loan talks

27th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Wednesday confirmed it was looking to win complete control of the main natural gas distribution company of Belarus as the two countries negotiate the terms of an emergency rescue loan.

The Moscow ambassador to Minsk, Alexander Surikov, confirmed that Russia was looking to acquire a 50-percent stake in Beltransgas, the Belarussian natural gas distribution company that is already half-owned by Russia's Gazprom.

"There will be a deal, but the question is when," Interfax quoted Surikov as saying. "There are meaningful negotiations under way."

Belarus is seeking $3 billion in assistance from its neighbour and a Moscow-led economic club of former Soviet republics, with the two sides saying a deal could be agreed in the coming weeks.

Minsk urgently needs the money to stave off a fiscal crisis that has led to a partial currency devaluation and put severe strain on everyday business transactions.

But media reports that Russian officials were driving tough terms to the deal, and Surikov said that his main fear was that the money would only be able to provide temporary relief.

© 2011 AFP

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