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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakhs in Bid to Lead Kashagan

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan demanded a leading role for its state energy company in running the huge Kashagan oil field Thursday after a group of Western oil majors failed to meet time and cost targets.

Kazakhstan has piled pressure on the group, headed by Italy's Eni, suspending Kashagan's operations altogether and dealing a blow to investor confidence in the oil-rich state.

On Thursday, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said state company KazMunaiGaz should join the operators managing one of the world's biggest oil finds in three decades. "According to the Kazakh president's orders and demands, KazMunaiGaz should be a co-operator," he said. "I will not say anything about percentages at this stage."

KazMunaiGaz holds 8.3 percent in Kashagan. Asked what he would do if the group did not meet Kazakh demands, Masimov said: "We have Plan B. I'll tell you about that later."

Eni responded that it was ready to discuss all proposals and was setting up a meeting between its chief executive officer, Paolo Scaroni, and Masimov.

"We confirm our willingness to tackle all the issues raised together with all the partners of the Kashagan consortium," an Eni statement said, adding that the timing was being determined.

Masimov, who also invited EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs to the talks, said Kazakhstan was taking action because Kashagan delays could harm its robust economic growth.