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''Gazprom'' lobbying construction of regional LNG terminal in Finland

 RIGA, Feb 27 (LETA--REUTERS--ERR) - ''Gazprom'' owned companies should not be involved in any Baltic liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal because the project's aim would be to cut the region's dependence on Russian supplies, Latvia and Estonia said on Thursday.

Gas companies ''Gasum'' in Finland and ''Vorguteenus'' in Estonia -both of which are partially owned by Gazprom - inked a deal earlier this week to promote the Finnish town Inkoo for an LNG terminal and a pipeline to Paldiski in Estonia.

Both Estonia and Latvia expressed doubts about the plans on Thursday.

"Being independent of the present monopoly gas supplier is an unavoidable prerequisite for Estonia's support for the regional LNG terminal," Estonia's minister of economy and communication Juhan Parts said, according to local reports.

Meanwhile, Estonia's electricity transmission system operator ''Elering'' and the Estonian Economy Ministry have said that ''Gazprom'' lobbying is responsible for the change of heart regarding construction of a joint LNG terminal in the Baltics, ERR reports.

''Elering'' head Taavi Veskimagi said the main argument made by the head of Estonia's gas transmission system operator Sergei Jefimov on Tuesday - that the Finnish market is larger than Estonia's - is an "abstraction."

"There is no actual demand for LNG there, as all of Finland's current demand is covered by take-or-pay agreements with ''Gazprom" he told ETV. "As a result, until 2025, Finland will have a very small or non-existent market. The agreement between Estonia and ''Gazprom'' expires in 2015 and we need an alternative supply chain by that time so that a price reference would take shape and we could offer consumers a better gas price.''

Jefimov's company, ''Vorguteenus'' is 100 percent owned by Estonia's monopoly gas supplier ''Eesti Gaas''. ''Gazprom'' is the largest shareholder in ''Eesti Gaas'', with a 37 percent stake.

In Latvia, Economy Minister Daniels Pavluts said the goal of the terminal project was to secure real alternatives to gas supplies for the region.

"With that, only those solutions can be supported that are not connected with the existing supplier of natural gas," Pavluts said in a statement to the ''Reuters'' news agency.

The Latvian ministry said that talks on the optimal location for the terminal could take place "in the near future."

The countries have not yet agreed on which LNG terminal and pipeline project to support to boost their chances of getting EU funding for the project.

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