Russia and Georgia 'assure' BP its investments are safe

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The Independent Online

Lord Browne of Madingley, the chief executive of BP, said he had received personal assurances from the governments of Russia and Georgia over the company's multi-billion dollar investments in those countries.

Lord Browne of Madingley, the chief executive of BP, said he had received personal assurances from the governments of Russia and Georgia over the company's multi-billion dollar investments in those countries.

Presenting strong second-quarter results, which produced a profit of $3.9bn (£2.2bn), Lord Browne said that on a visit to Moscow two weeks ago he had "paid many calls on government". He said: "I'd say that BP's presence in Russia is decidedly welcome," adding that the "rationale" for the current Russian government assault on the Russian oil major Yukos lay "outside the oil and gas arena". BP has invested some $8bn (£4.4bn) on its TNK-BP joint venture in Russia.

Lord Browne admitted that construction had been halted on the giant oil pipeline that is being built by a consortium led by BP from the Caspian Sea to Turkey through Georgia. But he insisted that the stoppage had "nothing" to do with environmental concerns. "The issue is security," he said. Lord Browne revealed that he met Georgia's President, Mikhail Saakashvili, in London recently and received an undertaking that the $3bn pipeline would be allowed to complete on time. BP aims to start pumping oil through it in the first half of next year.

Green campaigners claim that the sudden suspension of the pipeline's construction stems from breaches of environmental standards in the ecologically sensitive Borjomi region of Georgia. Environmentalists claimed BP did not have the necessary certificates from the Georgian government and that puts the scheme in breach of its loan agreements with the World Bank and other lenders.

A BP spokesman said that Georgia had called in external consultants to advise on security measures for the pipeline. He said that construction was suspended on 19 July for a two-week period on an 11-mile section only. Work was continuing elsewhere in Georgia.

"We have all the necessary permits. We wouldn't have started construction if we didn't," the spokesman said. BP's second-quarter results set the company up for a record year, analysts said, with a profit of more than $16bn. Lord Browne said that although BP was performing well now, "the best, as they say, is yet to come", referring to its investments over the past five years that are now coming on-stream.

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