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European, Arab energy officials to discuss gas trade

Energy ministers from four Arab countries will meet with EU officials over the weekend to discuss ways of increasing gas exports to Europe, European Commission Vice President Loyola de Palacio said late Thursday.

Saturday's talks in Cairo between the European Union officials and ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon will center on the Arab gas pipeline, begun in 2002.

The pipeline is currently used to export Egyptian gas to the other three Arab nations, but is expected to be expanded to reach Cyprus, Turkey and eventually some European countries.

De Palacio told reporters here that Europe needed to diversify its energy supplies and build shared interests with Arab and Mediterranean countries, many of which have association agreements with Europe.

The Arab gas integration project is partly-funded by the European Investment Bank, and the scheme is of interest to the EU because of rising European gas consumption, she said.

"The EU depends on (developing) countries for more than 50 percent of our energy needs and the tendency is that this dependency shall grow," she said, stressing the need for security and diversity of supply.

Europe buys 40 percent of its gas supplies from Russia, with the rest coming mainly from Norway and Algeria, the commissioner said, adding that Europe recently began importing gas from Egypt.

De Palacio said her talks in Jordan and Egypt will also cover alternative ways of getting gas from the region to Europe "to better guarantee the security of supplies"

Beirut,09 27 2004
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The Daily Star
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