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MosNews: Energy High on Agenda as Chirac Hosts Putin and Merkel in Compiegne

EXTRACT: Part of the aim of the meeting will be to ease worries over energy security which have resurfaced in a standoff with Western oil companies over huge oil and gas projects in Russia’s remote Sakhalin region. Russia, which caused deep alarm in Europe last winter by cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine, has pressured oil groups such as Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil to gain a greater share of the Sakhalin revenues.

THE ARTICLE

Created: 23.09.2006 14:20 MSK (GMT +3)

The leaders of France, Germany and Russia met in an 18th century chateau near Paris on Saturday with Western worries about energy security high on the agenda, Reuters correspondents report from France.

French President Jacques Chirac met Russia’s Vladimir Putin for dinner at the Elysee Palace on Friday and the two leaders traveled to Compiegne north of Paris early on Saturday for a three-way meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The talks, taking place near the spot where the armistice ending World War One was signed, will cover a range of international issues, including Iran and Lebanon. The leaders, who will give a joint news conference at about 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT), will be asked about a report that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan last month.

The regional newspaper L’Est Republicain quoted a secret French intelligence report as saying Saudi Arabia’s secret service was convinced bin Laden died on Aug. 23. It said Chirac had been informed but his aides declined to comment. The French Defence Ministry said on Saturday the report could not be confirmed and it would launch an inquiry into the leak.

Attention at the three-way summit was likely to fall on energy security and Russia’s desire to join the core group behind EADS after it acquired a 5 percent stake in the flagship European aerospace group earlier this month. EADS bosses have welcomed technical cooperation but firmly rebuffed talk that Russia might become a core shareholder. Russia has a big arms and aviation industry of its own and says it can offer important technical expertise to the consortium, which is struggling with problems with its new A380 super jumbo.

France has billed the meeting, the latest in an informal series that began in 1998 between Chirac, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin, as a chance to exchange views. Part of the aim of the meeting will be to ease worries over energy security which have resurfaced in a standoff with Western oil companies over huge oil and gas projects in Russia’s remote Sakhalin region.

Russia, which caused deep alarm in Europe last winter by cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine, has pressured oil groups such as Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil to gain a greater share of the Sakhalin revenues. The future of a production sharing agreement won by French oil group Total at the Kharyaga field in West Siberia has also been thrown into question, although Putin dismissed as “greatly exaggerated” suggestions that Total could lose its license.

Officials have played down expectations of concrete results and no-one was forecasting the kind of outcome associated with previous meetings, when Chirac, Putin and Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder lined up to attack U.S. policy in Iraq. “Merkel won’t do anything that would encourage the idea of a Moscow-Berlin-Paris axis,” said Josef Janning of Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation.  

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