Russia won't budge on Serbian energy deal

July 11, 2008 at 4:54 PM

BELGRADE, Serbia, July 11 (UPI) -- Russian energy giant Gazprom will not budge on its offer to purchase a majority stake in the Serbian Naftna Industrija Srbije, officials said.

The oil division of Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, reached a deal in January to purchase a 51-percent stake in the Serbian energy firm for $648 million as well as $788 million in infrastructure upgrades, but delays of pricing and a new government delayed full ratification.

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, who assumed office Monday, said this week he would send the provision on to Parliament for ratification, RIA Novosti said.

Mladjan Dinkic, the deputy premier and economic minister, however, said the deal offered to the previous government was too low, prompting a rebuke from Gazprom.

"We will not give a dollar more than previously agreed, but we may consider whether we may invest more in the overhaul of existing production facilities," a Gazprom official told the Balkan Insight on condition of anonymity.

Dinkic took over as the chair of a working group of Serbian lawmakers to analyze the issues, saying, "We will try to do all we can in Serbia's interests."

Gazprom made its offer to NIS to construct a portion of the South Stream natural gas pipeline to transport natural resources from Russia to Eastern European markets.

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