Price Belarus pays for gas should remain at Russian levels if jointventure created - Belarusian PM

ST. PETERSBURG. Sept 25 (Interfax) - Belarus is expecting the price is pays for gas supplies to remain at Russian levels providing national gas companies Beltransgaz and Gazprom create a joint venture in 2006, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky told journalists Monday.

"Belarus is ready to accept the same price rise as Russian enterprises," Sidorsky said at the Russian Industrialist forum in St. Petersburg, adding that "gas prices should be balanced with Russia's and assuming price growth within the framework of Russia's energy program."

Mid-June Gazprom confirmed that it planned to sell natural gas to Belarus at USD 200 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2007, more than four times the current price of USD 46.68 per 1,000 cubic meters.

However, Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, have previously declared ahead of negotiations that the price Gazprom charges Belarus for gas should be the same level it charges domestically.

Gazprom and the Belarusian government are currently preparing a list of assets of interest to the Russian company, which Belarus could offer to offset an increase in price for Russian gas in 2007.

Belarusian PM Sidorsky is certain that the process of valuing Beltransgaz will be finished by the end of the year.

It was reported earlier that ABN Amro has until the end of October 2006 to complete the valuation. The terms for the sale of 50% of Beltransgaz to Gazprom will then continue to be discussed. Minsk is sure that a joint venture on the basis of Beltransgaz will be created by the end of the year.