Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Iran offers Georgia gas to replace Russian shortfall

AP , TBILISI

Iran has indicated it is prepared to export natural gas to this former Soviet country, which has been severely hit by a sharp drop in Russian gas deliveries, Georgia's energy minister said on Tuesday.

Millions of Georgians remained without gas on Tuesday for the third day in freezing winter temperatures because of gas shortages that followed pipeline blasts in a southern Russian region neighboring Georgia.

The incident has prompted Georgia's pro-Western government to urgently seek to diversify its energy imports.

"Iran has said it is willing to supply gas to Georgia," Energy Minister Nika Gilauri told reporters after a quick trip to Iran.

Half of the 1.5 million residents in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, are without gas, while in the rest of the 4.7-million nation, only two mountainous regions are getting gas supplies, Energy Ministry spokeswoman Teona Doliashvili said.

Russia has piped alternative gas supplies to Georgia from Azerbaijan, but Gilauri said on Tuesday the country was getting only around 35 percent of its usual gas volumes from Russia.

Georgia, which also has suffered electricity cuts, is in the midst of an exceptionally cold snap with daytime temperatures that have fallen to minus 25oC in remote mountain regions.

Some Tbilisi residents carted wood into their apartments to light stoves while those with a reliable power supply plugged electric radiators in.

In the eastern city of Rustavi, the 120,000 inhabitants were without electricity, gas or water, Georgian television reported.

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