UPDATE - Hungary committed to Nabucco, but cost still unclear, says Fellegi

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Hungary is fully committed to the construction of the Nabucco pipeline, but the final cost of the project remains unclear, National Development Minister Tamás Fellegi told journalists in London on Monday.

The estimated cost of the pipeline has risen from €7bn at the start to €24-26bn, Fellegi said before a conference on investments that leave a small carbon footprint. He expressed "serious doubts" about obtaining the financing necessary to build the pipeline, adding that financing from the private sector was a critical question.

The Nabucco pipeline is expected to bring gas from Central Asia to Europe, reducing the region's energy dependence on Russia.

The Nabucco Pipeline International, the project company for the pipeline, told MTI on Monday that the €7.9bn estimated cost of the pipeline was "based on technical implementation studies prepared in 2005". "Now Nabucco is reviewing those values and will publish the final figure based on realistic factors. All other figures related [to the cost of the pipeline] are nothing more than speculation," it added.

If the external situation does not deteriorate further, Hungary's government believes the country's economy could grow 1.5% in 2012, Fellegi said, answering a question.

When asked about sectoral "crisis taxes", Fellegi conceded that "unconventional, unpleasant" government measures had reduced the degree of confidence between the government and the private sector, but said the "redistribution of the burdens of the crisis" was the only way keep the country from collapse.

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