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Austria urges Nabucco partners to show support

Russian determination to push ahead with its Blue Stream gas pipeline made it imperative that countries in the Nabucco consortium now show unreserved support for their project, Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said.

The 3,300 kilometer , €4.6 billion ($6.2 billion) Nabucco pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe aims to ease reliance on Russian gas. But it has been slammed for delays, the lack of a convincing timetable for when it will come on stream and apparent wavering among some of the consortium members, particularly Hungary. „Russia is ready to invest, there is no doubt about that, and they also have the means to invest, and all of the parties involved have to realize that the time to play games is over,” Gusenbauer said in the Thursday interview. Moscow wants to extend the rival Blue Stream project, backed by Russian energy giant Gazprom through the Balkans to Hungary. „Russia's determination to push ahead with its plans may have helped strengthen support for Nabucco, which is backed by the European Union,” Gusenbauer said. „This makes it very, very clear to all parties involved that if we really want a diversification of energy supplies, Nabucco is the only way,” he said. Austrian state-controlled oil and gas group OMV leads the Nabucco consortium, which also includes companies from the transit countries: Hungary's MOL, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz, Romania's Transgaz, and Turkey's state-owned Botas.

Hungarian PM Ferenc Gyurcsány has said Hungary would keep its options open, sparking concerns he may dump Nabucco in favor of sticking with Russian gas, but Gusenbauer said he saw him still on Nabucco's side. „After (Gyurcsány's) visit to Moscow it looked like Hungary would switch sides towards Blue Stream, now it looks as though Hungary has somewhat come back to Nabucco,” said Gusenbauer. Meanwhile, the European Union was also on the spot to support the project financially. „If we are talking about European energy security as a common European concern... then this also means that there is a legitimate claim that the European Union should pitch in financially in such projects,” he said.

Senior Turkish officials told Reuters last week Turkey had suspended talks with Gaz de France about joining the Nabucco group, in protest at a French bill making it a crime to deny genocide was committed against Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War One. Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler denied the suspension of talks with GDF on Wednesday but added that political issues, including the French bill, would be taken into account when picking a sixth partner for Nabucco. Gusenbauer, who was sworn in as Austrian chancellor in January, warned Turkey not to mix those two issues. „It would be unreasonable to believe one could link political issues and eminent joint economical interests,” Gusenbauer said when asked about Turkey's position. „This wouldn't conform with traditions in the European Union, and one shouldn't even begin with such silly games.” (