| MOSCOW, June 5
MOSCOW, June 5 The United States opposes the
planned Nabucco pipeline to Europe being supplied with Iranian
gas, Washingon's diplomatic envoy to the Caspian Sea region,
where the route would start, told Reuters on Thursday.
The new route will not displace the Russian energy giant
Gazprom (GAZP.MM), but force it to compete for an increase in
consumers, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew
Bryza said in an interview.
Although some supporters for the U.S. and EU-backed pipeline
that would bypass Russia by crossing countries on its southern
borders such as Turkey have suggested sourcing supplies from
Iran, Bryza spoke out against it.
"The U.S. supports the Nabucco pipeline as a way for Europe
to help diversify supplies of natural gas, this means, new
sources - but not from Iran," he told Reuters in an interview.
Backers of the project on May 29 revealed a massive increase
in the estimated cost to build and operate the project to 7.9
billion euros ($12.19 billion) from 4.6 billion.
In a recent expression of concern about supplying Nabucco,
Huseyin Saltuk, the chairman of Botas, Turkey's state-controlled
pipeline company, told Reuters in April of the difficulties in
finding enough gas to fill the pipeline to capacity.
He suggested Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan could join the
project. The first construction work is due to start next year.
At present, only Azerbaijan is a committed supplier to the
pipeline, which by 2013 is due to travel across Georgia, Turkey
and the Balkans towards Western Europe with 31 billion cubic
metres of gas annually.
But although the U.S. backs European efforts to wean itself
off a dependence on Russian supplies, Bryza was adamant that
until Iran ceased its nuclear enrichment programme, Washington
would object to any energy co-operation with its allies.
"Nabucco, to move Iranian gas, would not be something we
could support," he said.
Russia is pressing ahead with its competing South Stream
project to develop a gas pipeline to Europe, although Brussels
and Washington want to offer European consumers an alternative
to their dependency on Russian gas monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM).
"We don't have any illusion that we could ever displace
Gazprom, that's impossible," he said.
"On energy in general, there is a lot of progress in
developing Nabucco. The Turkey-Greece-Italy gas pipeline is to
provide a complement, not a substitute, for the massive volume
of gas that Gazprom brings into Europe now," said Bryza.
"We believe it will become more of a partner, if it is
compelled to operate on the basis of market, rather than
monopolist principles, by virtue of increasing competition."
(Editing by James Jukwey)