In Brief

Oil and gas pipeline projects heading for progress in coming months Bulgaria and Greece hope Russia will join them in the coming months in the formation of a consortium that will construct and operate the proposed Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline linking the Black Sea with the Aegean, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said after meeting with Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Valentin Cerovski in Thessaloniki yesterday. «We are optimistic. President Putin’s recent visit to Bulgaria confirmed Russia’s interest in backing this project,» he said. Tsochadzopoulos said the two countries have already worked with Kazakhstan in securing supplies of oil to be transported with tankers from Novorossisk on the Black Sea east coast to Burgas, and hope Russia will follow suit. The two ministers are due to visit Moscow separately later this month and in May. The project is seen as an alternative route for oil transportation to the Bosporus strait. Separately, Reuters reported a Greek embassy official in Baku, Azerbaijan, as saying that the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) in June will sign a long-term gas import deal through a planned export pipeline running to Turkey and on through Europe from 2006. Contract details should be hammered out later this month, when officials from DEPA meet with Azeri state oil firm SOCAR, which has said Greece could buy up to 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas from 2006 to help BP and Norway’s Statoil develop more quickly the giant Azeri Shakh Deniz offshore gas field and make a gas pipeline to Turkey profitable. Last year, Turkey and Greece agreed to invest $300 million in building the first pipeline to carry Caspian Sea gas to Europe. Rift over OKTA refinery acquires new twist State-run Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) on Tuesday appointed Giorgos Halvatzoglou to the post of chairman of subsidiary ELPET, majority owner of the OKTA refinery in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and of the Thessaloniki-Skopje oil pipeline, replacing a FYROM government official. The move comes as talks since February between the two sides over FYROM’s claim that OKTA enjoys monopolistic privileges seem to have reached a stalemate. ELPE maintains that FYROM is balking at an agreed extension of the pipeline to Kosovo. FYROM’s Premier Branko Crvenkovski held talks with Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos in Athens last week, which are expected to continue in Skopje later this month. Raytheon deal The Defense Ministry yesterday signed a $242 million contract with US defense contractor Raytheon for the supply of jamming and on-board security avionics for F-16 fighter jets, it said. The contract involves the supply of 32 IDIAS jammers and 60 Aspis II integrated security avionics systems. Deliveries will begin in 18 months, with the supply completed in 2006. (Reuters) Turk Telecom Turkey may offer 25 percent of state-owned landline monopoly Turk Telekom in the form of convertible bonds during 2003, Communications Minister Binali Yildirim said yesterday. Yildirim told Reuters the bonds would be convertible into shares within two to three years. The government may also hold a block sale of Turk Telekom if market conditions were right, he said. The firm is due to lose its monopoly status in landlines at the end of the year. (Reuters)