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Baku wants to save Shah-Deniz
Implementation of "Project of the Century" under the threatThe head of Lukoil Vagit Alekperov will arrive in Baku with a working visit to discuss development of the company's projects in Azerbaijan. According to the president of SOCAR Natig Aliyev, along with other issues the sides will speak about exploration of Shah-Deniz - the project, which Lukoil is ready to leave.

Although, regardless Lukoil's intentions implementation of plan for exploration of Shah-Deniz, with its resources at 1 trillion cubic meters of gas, is under the threat. The cost of the project is growing, while its efficiency is questioned because of the results of elections in the main market - Turkey. While Baku is exerting all efforts to save the project, the shareholders are leaving it.

Italian Agip company which possesses 5% of the project announced about its intention to leave the project together with Lukoil and LukAgip consortium having 10% of Shah-Deniz. Several days before Agip suggested Lukoil to sell LukAgip. The Russian company did not yet confirmed its readiness to leave the project, while saying that this issue will be finally solved at the meeting of LUKAgip's Board of Directors. However, it is known that Agip will forward its shares in the project at open tender in December. In this light the first Vice president of Lukoil Ravil Maganov has already informed that the Russian side has a privileged right for buying the shares.

Meanwhile, yet in October Vagit Alekperov informed that the company intends to be concentrated on tree Azeri projects. Operated by the company. The heads of SOCAR consider that if LUKAgip leaves the project it will not affect the process of implementation of the project. Moreover, the operator of the project - BP and SOCAR did not receive yet official confirmation of their intentions. SOCAR representative said the company is sure that such a decision will not influence negatively the project.

Nevertheless, regardless the optimism of the Azeri side, implementation of the project is far from being successful. Thus, until now Botas Turkish company did not provide guarantees on the size of imported gas and its cost. While, according to experts, now Baku is afraid that after victory of islamists at the parliamentary elections in Turkey some "recalculation" of agreements between Azerbaijan and Ankara is possible - new Turkish authorities can postpone import of the Azeri gas till better times for Turkish economy.

The Azeri government was as well shocked by the recent statement by BP company Azerbaijan saying that project can get more expensive - from 2.6 billion to 3.2 billion USD. According to the head of the company David Woodward, the cost of tender proposals of service companies was more expected. However, Baku which initially was against of so drastic growth of the cost of the project, gave its preliminary ok to the new terms. Thus, experts consider that the government is trying to demonstrate full accord among the partners of the project on commercial and technical issues.

The Azeri President Heydar Alieyev discussed with the government and SOCAR officials the paces of implementation of the project and construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum gas main. All aspects of Shah-Deniz's "problem" were touched upon, including terms of export of the Azeri gas to Turkey.

Vremia Novostey daily

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By Arif Useynov, Baku, Denis Rebrov

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