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#1 - JRL 7065
BP may lose huge gas field in Russia-paper

MOSCOW, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Russia's resources ministry is threatening to withdraw a licence for a huge gas field from a BP-led group only days after the major clinched a record investment deal in Russia, a Russian newspaper said on Monday.

Business daily Vedomosti said natural resources minister Vitaly Artyukhov ordered the initiation of the licence withdrawal procedure last week, on the grounds that Rusia-Petroleum group was not fulfilling licence conditions.

The resources ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comments.

Rusia-Petroleum has a licence for Kovykta gas field, which contains 1.88 trillion cubic meters of gas and is considered one of the main sources for a planned gas pipeline to China.

The head of the company's Moscow office said the ministry had not contacted it and that it fully respected its licence agreements.

BP has a 33 percent stake in Rusia, while its new Russian partner, the oil firm TNK, has another 29 percent.

Last week, BP agreed to buy a 50 percent stake in TNK, Russia's third oil firm, a record foreign direct investment and seen as a green light for potential investors, who have seen Russia as too risky.

Vedomosti said analysts did not expect the BP-led group to lose the Kovykta licence as its landmark investment was protected by Russian partners and supported by the Kremlin.

BP's spokesman in Moscow said the spat was purely technical: "This is an operational issue, which lies within the responsibility of Rusia."

Vedomosti said under the license agreement Rusia had to start trial production from Kovykta in 2000, but never launched the field due to uncertainty over supplies to China.

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