Greece cool over Bulgarian pipeline qualms: minister

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Greece is concerned over reservations by the new Bulgarian Prime Minister towards a Russian-backed oil pipeline project which the three countries approved in 2007, a Greek junior minister said.

"A diplomatic initiative is very likely to be held in a few weeks," junior minister for energy Yiannis Maniatis told parliament late Monday.

"The next 6-7 months will be critical for the pipeline," he said in statements carried by the semi-state Athens News Agency.

In 2007, Greece, Bulgaria and Russia signed an agreement on the 280-kilometre (174-mile) pipeline, stretching from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis in Greece and carrying oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe whilst bypassing the busy Bosphorus strait.

But new Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who came to power last year, has repeatedly expressed reservations about the project.

"I don't see it necessary to even discuss (the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project) at a time of crisis," Borisov told reporters following a meeting with diplomats earlier this month.

During the closed-door session, the premier evoked the ecological catastrophe which an oil leak would cause for Bulgaria's tiny bay of Burgas, pointing to the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, one of the diplomats told AFP.

However, the Bulgarian government later insisted that Sofia had taken no "official action for ending its participation" in the pipeline project.

On Monday, Maniatis said that the Greek government would prepare a possible diplomatic initiative carefully.

"We must not and will not go to Sofia now," he told parliament.

"We are living a great crisis which involves a redrafting of Bulgarian-Russian relations among other things."

"Because we care about...our energy relations with Bulgaria, we will attempt to promote them with the sense, maturity and experience of a European state," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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