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Moldova invited Russian energy giant Gazprom
Moldova invited Russian energy giant Gazprom to take part in its oil and gas survey on Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said after talks in Moscow with his Moldovan counterpart.

Zubkov and Moldova's Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev met earlier in the day to discuss steps to boost bilateral economic contacts.

"There are good opportunities for prospecting Moldova's oil and gas reserves, and Gazprom will accept the invitation to visit Moldova later this month to continue work in the field," the Russian premier said.

Gazprom said earlier gas prices for Moldova would increase from $209.6 per 1,000 cubic meters in the second quarter of 2008 to $225.4 in the fourth quarter.

Late last year, Tarlev expressed hope that Russian gas prices would not exceed $190 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Zubkov and Tarlev also agreed to boost bilateral investment cooperation.

"We are ready to cooperate in all directions, primarily in the investment sphere," Tarlev said, adding that Moldovan companies were seeking to invest in Russian agriculture, power engineering, infrastructure and other spheres.

Russia's accumulated investment in the Moldovan economy exceeds $200 million, the Russian premier said. Zubkov also described economic ties between his country and Moldova as "dynamic," with bilateral trade reaching over $1.3 billion last year.

Zubkov said Russia was also seeking to open a trade department and an office of its VTB foreign trade bank in Moldova as soon as possible.

Russia currently sells its natural gas to Moldova at $187.81 per 1,000 cubic meters, while the ex-Soviet republic paid $170 for the amount last year.

Last year Gazprom delivered 2.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Moldovagaz, the country's national gas company, including 1.4 billion for consumers in its breakaway republic Transdnestr.

Moldovagaz' debt for Russian gas supplies was $208 million as of January 1, 2008, with Transdnestr owing $1.7 billion. However, Gazprom decided not to add charges for late payments "to improve Moldovagaz' financial situation."

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