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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin to Seal Energy Deals in Italy, Greece

President Vladimir Putin will oversee the signing of major energy agreements with officials in Italy and Greece during a three-day visit beginning Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Putin is expected to oversee the announcement of further cooperation between Gazprom and Italy's top energy firm, Eni, and then travel to Athens for the signing Thursday of a long-delayed Balkan oil pipeline deal with Greece and Bulgaria.

In Italy, Putin will meet with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and the country's president, Giorgio Napolitano. He will also meet with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican in an effort to build closer ties between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches.

Eni and Gazprom are expected to announce more details of an agreement struck last year that will give Eni access to gas and oil deposits in Russia and allow for joint development of reserves elsewhere, Prodi's office said in a statement Monday. Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni and Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller will sign the agreement at a meeting between Prodi and Putin in the Italian city of Bari, an official in Prodi's office said.

Enel, Italy's biggest power firm, is scheduled to sign a cooperation accord with the Federal Atomic Energy Agency to cooperate in developing generation and technology, the agency's spokesman Sergei Novikov said Monday.

Eni and Enel spokespeople declined to comment. Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov was not immediately available for comment.

Another deal due to be signed at Bari would see Alenia, part of Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica, buying a blocking stake of 25 percent plus one share in Sukhoi Civil Aircraft later this week, a Sukhoi source said Monday.

On Thursday, Putin will visit Athens to sign an agreement on the building of a pipeline by Russian companies from Bulgaria's Black sea coast to the Greek port of Alexandropolis.

The three countries have set aside years of differences to allow construction of the 700 million euro ($920 million) pipeline to begin. The pipeline, due to open in 2009, is designed to transport 35 million tons per year.

Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko told Putin at a Cabinet meeting Monday that the final details of the pipeline deal were being hammered out.

"We have practically completed preparation of the intergovernmental agreement on the launch of this project and I hope that by your visit everything will be ready for signing," Khristenko said in televised comments.

Rosneft, Gazprom Neft and oil pipeline monopoly Transneft will share 51 percent of the pipeline. Greece and Bulgaria will share 49 percent.

Putin is to visit Pope Benedict in the Vatican on Tuesday, the first time the two have met since Benedict succeeded the late Pope John Paul II in 2005.

The Orthodox Church's representative for European affairs was quoted Monday as saying it was too early to talk of the Pope visiting. A meeting between Benedict and Patriarch Alexy II would depend on "an understanding on key issues."

"We first need to solve the existing problems," Interfax quoted Bishop Hilarion as saying.

Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, MT