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US sends oil to Belarus, seeking to diversify from Russia

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — The United States has dispatched a shipment of oil to Belarus, which is seeking to diversify its supplies after a price dispute with Russia, the Belarusian government said Friday.

The 80,000-ton shipment is expected to arrive at the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda in June and from there will sent by rail to Belarus. Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said cooperation with the U.S. on oil is "an element of energy security.”

Tensions between Belarus and Russia have been heightened in recent months by stalled negotiations over deeper integration of their economies. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused the Kremlin of using oil supplies as leverage to push for an eventual merger of the two countries.

Belarus had long relied on discounted oil from Russia, but most shipments from there halted in January after disagreement over prices. Belarus subsequently received oil shipments from Norway, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia.

Russia and Belarus later reached a compromise agreement and Russian state oil company Rosneft said Friday it expected to ship about 9 million tons to Belarus this year — about half the amount Belarus had bought in previous years.

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