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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Killing delays Caucasus energy deal

By Chloe Arnold in Baku

The Georgian President, Eduard Shevardnadze, has cancelled a visit to Azerbaijan to sign an important pipeline deal, following the murder of one of Georgia's best-known journalists.

Georgi Sanaya, 25, a newsreader at an independent national television station, was found shot dead at his home on Thursday.

Western oil companies had been expecting the Georgian president in Baku on Friday morning to put the seal on a multi-million dollar contract with his Azeri counterpart, Heydar Aliyev.

The deal will see the construction of a gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze
Mr Shevardnadze hopes energy deals will boost Georgia's weak economy

Colleagues of Mr Sanaya, who hosted a late-night political discussion programme on Rustavi 2 national television, said they found his body riddled with bullets after he did not turn up for work.

In recent months, there has been an increase in violence in Georgia, which remains one of the poorest countries in the ex-Soviet Union.

There is no information yet on whether the Georgian president will reschedule his trip to Azerbaijan.

The agreement he was expected to sign with the president of Azerbaijan would pave the way for a pipeline that would transport some 5bn cubic metres of gas to Turkey via Georgia.

The consortium, led by BP Amoco, who commissioned the project, say the pipeline will be more effective than present routes running to ports in Russia and Georgia, because they cut out the congestion in the Black Sea.

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See also:

25 Jul 01 | Business
More doubts over Azerbaijan energy
18 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Georgia
09 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Azerbaijan
21 Jun 01 | Business
BP backs Caspian pipeline
05 Jun 01 | Business
Caspian oil row escalates
12 Mar 01 | Europe
Caspian gas deal signed
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