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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Gazprom: No Israeli Deals

05-05-2006 The Moscow Times - Valeria Korchagina - Gazprom on Thursday denied reports that it had recruited former senior Israeli defense official Amos Yaron for an advisory position in the gas monopoly but acknowledged that the company had been in contact with the influential figure as part of its expansion plans to that country. Israel's Ma'ariv daily on Thursday reported that Gazprom appointed the former director general of Israel's Defense Ministry as an adviser to Gazprom for negotiations to supply natural gas to Israel, Bloomberg reported. Benny Steinmetz, an Israeli diamond magnate whose business interests also span real estate, energy and engineering sectors, is also being considered by Gazprom as a potential partner within Israel, Ma'ariv said, Bloomberg reported. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov denied that Yaron was given a job at Gazprom. However, Kupriyanov acknowledged that Yaron had been among the participants in negotiations to provide Israel with Russian gas. Yaron, dubbed the architect of the wall dividing Israel and the Palestinian territories, was a close ally of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Kupriyanov also confirmed that the talks with Steinmetz have taken place, but he did not elaborate. "We haven't named strategic or any other kind of partners. But we have talked to him," Kupriyanov said. Gazprom has been in talks with Israel over gas supplies to the country via the Blue Stream pipeline, which currently links Russia to Turkey. Turkey and Israel are planning to construct up to four underwater pipelines to extend the Blue Stream pipeline and carry Russian gas further on to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Lebanon. The volumes, the prices for gas and the time frame for the project are yet to be defined, Kupriyanov said. The talks with Israel, apart from serving the commercial purposes, also represent a political move likely aimed at counterbalancing Russia's earlier controversial move to invite Hamas leaders to Moscow, said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Alfa Bank.

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