Serbian, Russian firms agree on exploring Bosnia oilfields

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Serbian oil company NIS, controlled by Russian energy giant Gazprom, and Russian state-run firm Zarubezneft on Friday agreed to cooperate to explore oilfields in north Bosnia.

"We expect that this project in Republika Srpska will be broadened on the whole region," Serbian Energy Minister Petar Skundric told Bosnian news agency SRNA after the companies signed a memorandum agreeing to cooperation.

Serbia has already talked to Albania about a similar project, he said.

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik hailed the deal that it is to be implemented on the territory of his entity, according to SRNA.

"I believe that previous information about certain amounts of oil existing here will be proven, which means the Republika Srpska could become an important area for the energy stability of the region," he stressed.

Dodik said that the beginning of exploration required an investment of 20 million dollars (15 million euros) while the whole project was worth between 130 and 150 million dollars (100 and 115 million euros).

Zarubzneft's officials said the first exploration work should be completed by the end of 2011, adding that oilfields in northern Bosnia could provide some 21 million tons of oil within the next ten years, according to SRNA.

Gazprom Neft bought a 51-percent stake in NIS in 2009, while Zarubezneft acquired Bosnia's sole oil refinery in Bosanski Brod in 2007.

Since the 1992-1995 war Bosnia consists of two semi-independent entities -- the Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. Each has its own government.

© 2010 AFP

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