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Gazprom, Eni welcome EDF to South Stream

ROME, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Italy's Eni signed a memorandum of understanding in Rome supporting a French decision to join the South Stream pipeline.

French energy giant EDF signed a memorandum of understanding in November linked to the construction of the offshore section of the pipeline.

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Italian energy giant Eni and Gazprom hold joint ownership of the pipeline consortium.

"The given memorandum was signed following the agreements reached by Gazprom and EDF last week," Gazprom announced. "It demonstrates intention of Russian and Italian partners engaged in the South Stream project to cooperate with French colleagues in the construction of the large-scale transnational gas pipeline."

EDF is expected to take a 10 percent stake in the project. Eni in its announcement of the memorandum said the agreement "in principle" welcomes EDF to South Stream "under conditions to be defined in the next months."

South Stream is intended to bring more than 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from Russia through the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and then on to European consumers.

It is part of an effort by Russia to diversify its energy transit options to Europe while avoiding politically sensitive territory in Ukraine. It is seen as a rival to the Nabucco pipeline that Europe aims to use to break the Russian grip on the regional energy sector.

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