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Italy, Bulgaria hold talks on South Stream

ROME, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- There is an interest to form strong bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Italy in order to move forward with the South Stream gas pipeline, officials said.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov met with his Italian counterpart, Giorgio Napolitano, to discuss energy diversification and economic ties, the Italian Journalist Agency reports.

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"We are interested in an agreement between Italy and Bulgaria in the energy sector," Parvanov said. "The South Stream project, begun with contacts between ENI and Gazprom, has our full support and must continue on its path."

The proposed South Stream pipeline would bring an estimated 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from Central Asia and Russia to Italy through the Balkans as early as 2013.

Napolitano said there is a "strong interest" between both countries to make progress on the South Stream project.

The consortium for South Stream is a joint venture between Gazprom and the Italian ENI S.p.A.

Gazprom said in early February, however, that the launch date for South Stream could be delayed by at least a year as the energy monopoly cut back on its planned investments for 2009 by 14 percent.

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