Kremlin: Putin to visit Greece for signing of oil pipeline deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Greece next week for a visit that is to coincide with the signing of a long-delayed oil pipeline deal, the Kremlin said.

During the March 14-15 visit, Putin will meet with the Greek and Bulgarian presidents, the Kremlin said late Tuesday. It said an agreement among the three governments for cooperation on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline would be signed during the summit.

Putin has visited Greece twice the past two years amid talks on the 285-kilometer (178-mile) pipeline, a EUR900 million (US$1.2 billion) venture to carry Russian oil across Bulgaria and Greece to the Mediterranean Sea.

Putin last month warned that Russia would seek alternative supply routes if a pipeline agreement was not concluded soon. Within days, the three countries initialed a deal setting out the project details, paving the way for the forthcoming agreement.

The pipeline, bypassing Turkey's cramped Bosporus Strait, would carry oil from Burgas on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the Mediterranean. It is tentatively scheduled for completion by 2010.

Authorities say the pipeline would initially carry 700,000 barrels of oil a day, with capacity set to eventually increase to more than 1 million barrels a day, reports AP.

A consortium of companies from the three countries including Russia's state-controlled Rosneft, Gazprom Neft and Transneft, as well as Greece's Hellenic Petroleum SA are to build and operate the project.

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