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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Gazprom warns EU to let it grow
Flag flying outside Gazprom building in Moscow
Gazprom wants to become one of the world's biggest energy firms
Gazprom, one of the main suppliers of natural gas to Europe, has warned that blocking its plans to expand across the region will "not produce good results".

The Russian company has recently indicated it wants to expand European operations, with speculation centred on a possible bid for the UK's Centrica.

Energy security is a hot political topic and there are concerns Europe is too dependent on Russian supplies.

Gazprom, the world's biggest gas producer, wants to be a global player.

Company boss Alexi Miller explained that competition has been intensifying for energy resources and Gazprom could turn to other markets including China.

Powerful ambitions

"Attempts to limit Gazprom's activities in the European market and to politicise questions of gas supplies, which are in fact entirely within the economic sphere, will not produce good results," Mr Miller said.

(Gazprom comments) give grounds to our concerns on the growing foreign dependency of European energy supply
Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, EU Energy spokesman

"It should not be forgotten that we are actively seeking new markets such as North America and China," he added. "It's no coincidence that competition for energy resources is growing."

Mr Miller's comments came after he met European Union ambassadors on Tuesday.

Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, spokesman for Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, said that Mr Miller's statement "gives grounds to our concerns on the growing foreign dependency of European energy supply".

He added that the EU had a "need to diversify both the origin of our supplies and our supply routes".

For many observers, the biggest worry is that consumer and wholesale prices will continue to climb, and that governments will have to make political concessions to ensure a steady supply of gas.

This problem is seen as becoming more acute in the UK as supplies from North Sea operations dwindle.

National interests?

Gazprom appears to be concerned that the UK would block Gazprom's attempts to buy the UK's largest gas company.

Centrica owns British Gas and is the UK's largest utility firm with more than 17 million electricity and gas customers.

Shares in Centrica have been surrounded by speculation that the Russian firm was planning a takeover approach, prompting the UK government to say it would scrutinise any such move.

Last month, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the security of the UK's energy supply was paramount and recent press reports stated that it trying to find out if it had the legal means with which to block a takeover.

In an effort to soften his comments and ally any concerns that gas supplies may dry up, Mr Miller said that the company understood its responsibilities as the provider of 25% of Europe's gas and would honour existing contracts.

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