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Finland waits for Nord Stream ecological concerns to be addressed


HELSINKI, April 20 (RIA Novosti) - Finland hopes environmental concerns around the Nord Stream gas pipeline will be tackled by June, the Baltic state's president said on Monday.

"These aspects are continuing to be studied, and I believe when the heads of our governments meet in June, we will know more about the timeframe for it [the project]," Tarja Halonen told a news conference after talks with her Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

Halonen said Finland's concerns about the pipeline, designed to bring Russian gas directly to Western Europe under the Baltic Sea bypassing traditional transit nations, were purely environmental.

Russia provides 100% of Finland's gas requirements, and some 70% of its crude oil supplies.

Some Baltic countries, including Sweden, Estonia and Finland, have questioned the environmental safety of the 6 billion-euro pipeline, due to eventually pump 55 billion cu m of gas year. Sweden has also said Russia could use the pipeline for spying, and transit nation Poland has been the project's most vocal critic.

However, EU officials have backed the pipeline as an additional source of gas supplies.

An environmental impact assessment is expected to be completed in late 2009, and the pipeline's first leg of some 1,200 km, with an annual capacity of 27.5 billion cu m of gas, is planned to be commissioned in 2010.

The report was to be finished by mid-2007, but the deadline has been delayed several times since then. The consortium running the project has also had to change the route several times.

Speaking at the news conference, Medvedev said Finland's position on the project was positive in general.

"Such projects create a base for Europe's energy security, and a variety of gas pipeline routes enhances rather than damages its security," Medvedev said, responding to concerns in Europe about overdependence on Russian supplies.

"We will continue work on this project in line with all environmental requirements," he said.

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