April 28, 2008 / 10:58 AM / 12 years ago

UPDATE 1-Italy's Prodi declines Putin's Gazprom job offer

(Adds details, background)

ROME, April 28 (Reuters) - Italy’s outgoing prime minister, Romano Prodi, has declined Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s offer of the presidency of South Stream, a pipeline venture by Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and Eni (ENI.MI), a cabinet source said on Monday.

A source in Prodi’s office said: “He is not interested.”

Prodi is meeting the Russian and Italian energy companies’ CEOs on Monday, and Russian newspaper Kommersant said he would be offered the job, mirroring former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s appointment to Gazprom’s Nord Stream pipeline.

Prodi hands over to media mogul Silvio Berlusconi in a few days’ time after his centre-left party lost Italy’s mid-April election. Prodi was previously head of the European Commission and twice chaired Italian state holding company IRI. He beat Berlusconi twice at the polls and had two spells as premier.

Kommersant had reported that 68-year-old Prodi would be offered the job at lunch on Monday with Gazprom’s head Alexei Miller and Eni’s Chief Executive Paolo Scaroni.

The Russian and Italian companies formed South Stream to build a gas pipeline that will eventually transport 30 billion cubic metres of Russian gas per year under the Black Sea to southern Europe.

Analysts have estimated the cost of the project at about 10 billion euros.

Scaroni said in a statement earlier in the day that Prodi would be “an excellent choice” to head South Stream.

“Putting a man who’s been president of the European Union in charge of the infrastructure that will secure Europe’s energy supply is really a great idea,” he said. (Reporting by Alberto Sisto, Francesca Piscioneri and Giselda Vagnoni; Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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