Petrobras: Talks Advance at Occupied Bolivian Gas Pipeline

SAO PAULO Aug 22, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Negotiations were "advancing well" at a gas pipeline in Bolivia occupied since Sunday by a group of Guarani Indians, a top official of Brazilian energy corporation Petrobras (PBR) said Tuesday.

"We have sent negotiators to the site and I am confident a solution will be reached shortly," said Petrobras Oil and Gas Supply Director Paulo Roberto Costa at a news conference.

Petrobras is part of a consortium that controls the pipeline. Other members of the consortium are Repsol-YPF (REP) and Total (TOT).

Costa added: "There is zero chance that natural gas supplies will be interrupted because of the occupation."

As many as 300 Indians were occupying the site or engaging in protests near the site as of Tuesday morning, according to Petrobras officials. The Indians were occupying a control station located in Parapet in Santa Cruz state. The station serves to compress gas before transporting it to Brazil. Brazil currently imports about 25 million cubic meters of gas a day from Bolivia.

The Indians are demanding the immediate payment of $9 million in social contributions promised by the oil companies in a 2005 deal.

Costa said Bolivian officials were also on the site as of Tuesday morning. "They are helping to reduce tensions," said Costa. "We expect a resolution shortly."

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