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Gazprom's unit signs €160 mln gas refinery deal with Syria

Gazprom's construction arm signed a €160 million ($220 million) deal with its Syrian counterpart to build another gas refinery in the country, Russia's regional development minister said Thursday.

The company, Stroitransgaz, a unit of the Russian energy giant, will build the refinery near the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, 150 miles northeast of Damascus, within two years, Vladimir Yakovlev said after a two-day session of the bilateral cooperation commission. The commission also signed an automotive traffic agreement and a MoU between Russian and Syrian business associations. "Syria is ready to sign up to $1 billion in contracts with Russia," Syria's Trade and Economy Minister Hosni Lutfi said. Yakovlev also said the two countries were committed to raising trade to a record $1 billion this year, up 35% from last year's $630 million.

Economic cooperation between Russia and Syria rocketed after Russia wrote off a large part of Syria's $13 billion debt. This will be Stroitransgaz's third project in Syria, along with a gas refinery near the city of Homs in central Syria to be completed in 2008 and the construction of the Syrian part of the Jordan-Syria-Egypt gas pipeline. Syria's production of oil has declined in recent years from 600,000 barrels per day in 2000 to some 360,000 in 2006. Damascus is trying to compensate for this by relying more on gas. (