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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hungary Opposition Says Nabucco a Top Priority

BUDAPEST — Hungary's main opposition party Fidesz, which is expected to win the 2010 elections, regards the Nabucco gas pipeline as a key priority in diversifying Hungary's energy supply, a leading Fidesz politician said on Monday.

Zsolt Nemeth, head of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee and a top foreign policy adviser to Fidesz chairman Viktor Orban, told Reuters that Hungary must also push for extending its long-term gas supply contract with Russia's Gazprom.

The existing contract will expire in 2015.

Hungary, with its annual gas consumption of about 14 billion cubic meters, is heavily reliant on Russian gas imports.

"This [talks about an extension of the Russian contract] will be one of the first issues on the table [if Fidesz wins elections]," Nemeth said. "Fidesz will aim for a pragmatic policy in relation with Russia."

Fidesz, which has a commanding lead in opinion polls with more than 60 percent support among decided voters, is widely expected to win parliamentary elections expected in April or May 2010.

Nemeth said Fidesz considers backing the Nabucco gas pipeline to be a top priority in its energy policy.

"The pipeline can start off with Azeri gas, and then the Turkmenistan, Iraqi options have significance. We also trust that later the Iranian option will also play a role," he said.

Nabucco, which should lessen Europe's dependence on Russian gas, faces rivalry from a similar project launched by Gazprom.

Energy analysts have questioned the Nabucco plan to transport up to 31 billion cubic meters of gas a year from the Caspian region to an Austrian gas hub via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary because Nabucco has lacked solid supply agreements.

The first gas, most likely from Iraq, will flow through the Nabucco pipeline in the fourth quarter of 2014, the Nabucco consortium said earlier this month.

Nabucco shareholders are Austria's OMV, Hungary's MOL, Romania's Transgaz, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz, Turkey's Botas and Germany's RWE.