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News: February 2007

RUSSIA TO COMPLETE ROGUN HYDROELECTRIC PLANT IN TAJIKISTAN

Russia will finish building the Rogun hydroelectric dam in Tajikistan and considers that only itself and Tajikistan arc capable of handling this huge project, Ramazan Abdulatipov, Russia's ambassador to Tajikistan, told a press conference in Dushanbe.

"The Rogun project is crucial to our partnership, but it has regrettably become a hostage to technical and technological disputes between specialists and experts," Abdulatipov said.

"Endless insinuations and idle speculation about this issue serve no purpose and are damaging to our relations," he said.

"We need to come to terms and start implementing the project. This is what the Russian president and government want and a new intergovernmental agreement on the Rogun plant's construction is being drafted," Abdulatipov said, adding that the agreement should be signed as early as the first half of 2007.

Abdulatipov did not say whether Russian aluminum giant RUSAL or a different Russian company would be finishing the plant.

Tajikistan is to invest 50 million somonis, or US$14.5 million, of budget funds in the project to build the Rogun plant in 2007, Tajik Energy and Industry Minister Sherali Gulov said earlier.

RUSAL and the Tajik government signed an agreement in October 2004, pledging to cooperate in the energy sector and aluminum production. The Russian company said it would invest $2.2 billion in efforts to complete the construction of the Rogun facility, to build a new aluminum plant and to rebuild the Tursunzade Aluminum Smelter.

Tajik authorities and Rusal have been divided over the height and type of the dam and the volume of unfinished, work since September 2005, when the construction of the hydroelectric power plant, which should eventually be capable of generating 13 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, officially resumed.

Tajikistan estimates that the Rogun plant is currently valued at around $804 million and that the full bare construction cost is an estimated $2 billion. Work on the dam began back in 1976, however it was frozen due to financial constraints. When complete, the dam will turn Tajikistan into the region's biggest electricity exporter.

RUSAL said in June 2006 that efforts to restore infrastructure in the district were well under way and that the company planned to invest $50 million.

RUSAL and the Tajik government have brought in an independent appraiser, selected by the World Bank, to determine the type and height of the Rogun dam. The appraisal has been completed, but," the results are not yet known.

Source: Interfax, 18.02.2007