IN SHORT BUSINESS

Economy Ministry pushes for Caspian oil

SLOVAKIA's oil-pipeline operator, Transpetrol, is likely to make a one-time transport of oil from the Caspian Sea to the Czech Republic's Unipetrol company, Economy Minister Pavol Rusko confirmed on June 24, 2004.

The Economy Ministry owns 51 percent of Transpetrol, while Yukos, a Russian oil company, owns the remaining 49 percent along with management rights.

Rusko met Transpetrol management earlier on June 24 to discuss Yukos' objections to the transport of oil from the Caspian Sea through Ukraine, the news wire TASR wrote.

Before the Unipetrol deal is concluded, an agreement must still be reached with Russian and Ukrainian pipeline operators Transneft and Ukrtransneft.

The transport would pass through Transneft's Druzba pipeline and Ukrtransneft's Odessa Brody pipeline.

Rusko said that Transpetrol would expand its pipeline operation if it found a long-term and reliable customer for crude Caspian oil. He said it was important for Slovakia to have a diversified source of oil supplies.

Until now, Slovakia has relied on Russia for oil, but it is now looking to the area of the Caspian Sea. "It is our priority that this oil gets through to Europe. Transpetrol is a company based in Slovakia and we want it to respect Slovakia's interests. These include reviving the Odessa Brody pipeline," said Rusko.

The scale of the required investment is to be assessed by an independent German company.

"Such a move requires an investment with long-term returns. Diversification has its own price and will have to be paid for," Rusko added.

The minister expects to visit Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, soon to discuss the transport of Caspian oil.

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