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Russia, Belarus, transport companies to hold talks on contaminated oil

[BRATISLAVA] Officials from Russia, Belarus and several companies are set to hold talks on Tuesday in Bratislava to discuss what can be done to get Russian oil flowing via the Druzhba pipeline again after the contamination problems, Belarus state oil company said.

Belarusian state oil company Belneftekhim said the talks were set to take place on the sidelines of a meeting of International Association of Oil Transporters (IAOT) in the Slovak capital.

The IAOT members are Czech pipeline operator MERO, Russian state pipeline monopoly Transneft, Slovakia's Transpetrol, Belarusian Gomeltransneft Druzhba, Hungarian oil company MOL , Kazakh KazTransOil, China National Petroleum Corporation and Ukrainian Ukrtransnafta.

"This is a regular meeting of the association that has been planned since last meeting in Beijing in November," the IAOT said in a statement to Reuters when asked about the Druzhba discussions planned during the meeting.

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Industry sources said officials from Transneft, the Russian energy ministry and Belneftekhim, among others, were set to attend the gathering.

On Monday, Russia began shipping clean oil via the Baltic after the contamination problem disrupted flows for three weeks. Hungary has become the first European country to resume imports via the Druzhba pipeline as part of a test.

High levels of organic chloride, used in oil extraction but which must be removed before being sent to customers, was found in crude pumped to the Baltic port of Ust-Luga and through the Druzhba pipeline in late April, disrupting Russian exports.

REUTERS