Belarus to pay more than $200 for '09 gas-envoy

MINSK, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Belarus should expect an increase of more than 50 percent in the price of Russian gas imports to more than $200 per 1,000 cubic metres, Moscow's ambassador in Minsk said on Wednesday.

Belarus pays the cheapest price for gas sold by export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) at $128. Following a dispute over pricing late in 2006, the two ex-Soviet states agreed Belarus would pay market prices by 2011.

Belarus has called for that agreement to be renegotiated as energy prices have soared beyond Minsk's expectations and its budget draft for next year has pencilled in a price of $140.

Ambassador Alexander Surikov said the agreement could not be renegotiated.

"The contract was signed. To abrogate this agreement would be very dangerous. There is no other gas supplier. Amending the contract? ... No such talks are taking place at the moment," Surikov told reporters.

"Next year, the price of gas for Belarus will be set at 80 percent of the price for Poland, minus custom duties and transit costs. The price will clearly hover above $200," he said.

The European Union closely watches price agreements between Russia and neighbouring Ukraine and Belarus, which sometimes lead to disputes and supply cuts. One such cut to Ukraine at the beginning of 2006, although brief, affected some EU states. (Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; writing by Sabina Zawadzki)



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