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Russian govt. approves ratification of Balkan pipeline deal

Russia's government approved Thursday the ratification of a deal to build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline signed by Greece and Bulgaria.

Russia, Bulgaria and Greece signed a long-delayed deal March 15 to build a pipeline across their territories to pump Russian oil further onto Europe. The 280-kilometer (175-mile) Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline will carry Russian oil via the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas and Greece's Alexandroupolis on the Aegean to Europe, the US and the Asia-Pacific region. Greek's parliament ratified the agreement in mid-April. Following the ratification, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said the pipeline could be commissioned at the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011. The pipeline will pump 35 million metric tons of oil a year, a volume that could eventually be increased to 50 million metric tons. Russia's state-controlled oil producer Rosneft, state pipeline operator Transneft, and energy giant Gazprom will hold a total of 51% in the project, while Greece and Bulgaria will control 24.5% each. The ratification bill is to be considered soon by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. (