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Putin signs Balkan oil pipeline deal into law

Russia's president signed a federal law Thursday ratifying a deal to build a pipeline across the Balkan states to supply oil to Europe, the US and the Asia-Pacific region. 

The deal to build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline was signed March 15 with Greece and Bulgaria to carry Russian oil via the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas and Greece's Alexandroupolis on the Aegean. „I am hoping for very active work with our partners,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with the head of Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft, Semyon Vainshtok. The 280-kilometer (175-mile) pipeline will pump 35 million metric tons of oil a year, a volume that could eventually be increased to 50 million metric tons. Earlier reports said the pipeline could be commissioned in late 2010 or early 2011.

Russia's state-controlled oil producer Rosneft, Transneft, and energy giant Gazprom will hold a total of 51% in the project, while Greece and Bulgaria will control 24.5% each. Putin also said expansion of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) should be synchronized with the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. The CPC is a 935-mile oil pipeline from the Tengiz oil field in Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk and the largest single US investment in Russia.

Vainshtok said that was exactly what his company was doing, adding that progress was being made although difficult negotiations still lay ahead with the US oil giant Exxon Mobil, which owns a 7.5% stake in the CPC through a subsidiary. „That company has a totally different position,” he said. „It views the pipeline as nothing but a cash machine.” US companies, including ChevronTexaco and Exxon Mobil, have contributed nearly one-half of the $2.6 billion investment. (