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Moscow angry at Sofia over oil pipeline

MOSCOW, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Moscow halted plans for the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline because officials in Bulgaria can't make up their minds on the project, a Russian minister said.

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said Moscow was interested in the project but had to suspend most of the work because of delays from Sofia.

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"We proceed from the fact that there are intergovernmental and corporate agreements," he told Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti. "We'll act according to them, including leaving (the project)."

Bulgaria in 2007 signed an agreement with Russia and Greece to build the 174-mile Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline to bypass crowded waterways near Turkey by crossing an overland route to the Aegean Sea.

Both sides have balked on the measure, with Sofia complaining about the economic benefits of the project and Moscow saying delays from Bulgaria have left the project "practically suspended."

In December 2009, Sofia complained the terms of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis contract wouldn't deliver an economic benefit and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said during the summer that he was "giving up" on the oil pipeline.

Bulgarian officials brushed off past threats from Moscow, however, saying the rhetoric was intended more as a negotiation tactic than as a statement of intent.

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