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Belarus may recognize Abkhazia, S.Ossetia in deal with Moscow

RIA Novosti

22/12/2008 14:52 MOSCOW, December 22 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus could recognize the independence of two disputed Georgian regions in exchange for moderate prices for Russian natural gas for next year, a Russian business daily said on Monday.

In a move condemned by Western countries, Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after a short war with Georgia, which had attempted to seize control of the latter in August. So far only Nicaragua has followed Russia's lead in recognizing the republics' independence.

Citing a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official who spoke before President Alexander Lukashenko's talks in Moscow on Monday, Kommersant also said that the Belarusian leader might agree to sell a stake in state gas transit firm Beltransgaz to pay no more than $140 per 1,000 cu m of gas and receive another loan, worth 100 billion rubles ($3.5 billion). Belarus currently pays $128 per 1,000 cu m for gas from Russia.

Lukashenko, whose country has been trying to establish a union with Russia, said earlier he would back parliament if it voted to recognize the republics that broke away from Georgia after armed conflicts in the early 1990s.

In an interview with state television channels ahead of his visit to Moscow, Lukashenko said Russia's interests in Belarus ranged from defense to business. "These must have some price, must they not? We expect Russia to lend its shoulder to Belarus, and not free of charge," Lukashenko said.

"Belarus's president does have something to offer his Russian counterpart in the political and economic sphere," the paper said.

"Moscow still waits for Minsk to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence. Alexander Lukashenko said in early fall that this would be done by a newly elected parliament, but 2 1/2 months after the parliamentary elections, he has not yet fulfilled his promise," the paper said.

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