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[Published: Wednesday September 17 2008]

EU to help Nigeriawith trans-Saharan pipeline

Abuja , 18 Sept-(ANA)- The European Union has offered to help Nigeriadevelop plans for a trans-Saharan pipeline to take gas from Nigeria to Europe.

The move ispart of plans to reduce EU reliance on Russian energy supplies.

It comes after Russia'sGazprom expressed interest in the pipeline and signed a memorandum ofunderstanding with the Nigerian government.

The memorandumcovers co-operation in the exploration, development and transportation of gasreserves.

Europe isincreasingly worried about its dependence on Russian gas, especially after Russia's action in Georgiaincreased its influence over European energy supply routes through the Caucasus.

This wake-upcall has made the EU look more urgently for alternatives, and so to Nigeria, whichhas the world's seventh largest gas reserves.

Now the EU isproposing to help the Nigerian government develop a long-mooted trans-Saharanpipeline which would take gas from Nigeriathrough Niger and Algeria, direct to Europe.

But Russia, it seems, has realised Nigeria'simportance too, as it tries to tighten its grip on European energy supplies.

A week beforethe EU offer, the Russian gas giant Gazprom signed a deal with the Nigeriangovernment for gas exploration and transportation, and has clearly stated itsinterest in the proposed pipeline.

At the moment,much of the Nigerian gas is already tied up in agreements with Western oilmajors.

Although theprospect of a pipeline is still a way off, correspondents say even if it goesahead there is also the issue of security, with militants in Nigeria'sgas-producing Niger Delta, Tuareg rebels in Niger, and Islamist groups inAlgeria who may see the pipeline as a very tempting target.(ANA)

FA/ANA/18September 2008---

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