Source Pravda.Ru

Putin to visit Greece to sign billion-dollar oil pipeline deal

Greek and Russian officials said Tuesday they were working to schedule a visit by President Vladimir Putin to Athens this month to sign a long-delayed oil pipeline deal.

Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said Putin, along with Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, were likely to attend the Athens signing before March 20. Bulgaria would likely be represented by Development Minister Assen Gagauzov, the AP says.

It would be Putin's third visit to Greece in two years for talks on the 285-kilometer (178-mile) Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, a EUR 900 million (US$1.2 billion) venture to carry Russian oil across Bulgaria and Greece to the Mediterranean Sea.

Putin last month warned that Russia would seek alternative supply routes if a pipeline agreement was not concluded soon. Within days, the three countries initialed a deal setting out the project details, paving a way for the forthcoming agreement.

"The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline ... is considered a great step forward in trilateral cooperation," Andrei Vdovin, Russia's ambassador to Greece, said after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. "We discussed ways to include President Putin in the signing ceremony."

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