SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s state-run gas network operator Bulgartransgaz is relaunching a 1.4 billion euro ($1.6 billion) tender to expand the country’s gas transport system from Turkey to Serbia.The company said Thursday that bids for construction of the 484-kilometre (300-miles) pipeline to transit mainly Russian gas to the border with Serbia will be accepted until March 6.Last year, Bulgaria adopted a new energy strategy that includes plans for a pipeline that could be linked to Gazprom’s Turk Stream project. Its two pipelines are designed to carry 15.7 billion cubic meters of gas across the Black Sea and would allow Russian gas deliveries to Europe to bypass Ukraine, the traditional transit gas route to the West.Energy issues will be discussed during next week’s visit by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.The Associated Press
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 6,000 Colombian asylum applications were received in the first half of 2001 in Europe and North America – more than twice the number received over the same period last year. “In these regions combined, Colombians now represent the twelfth largest nationality requesting asylum, up from a ranking of 21 for the first six months of 2000,” agency spokeswoman Millicent Mutuli told reporters in Geneva.Regionally, Costa Rica has seen a sharp increase in Colombian asylum applications this year, with over 2,500 new arrivals registered from January through June, compared to just over 300 during the same period in 2000. “The trend has continued in July and the first half of August, with a record high of over 1,000 new Colombian arrivals in less than six weeks,” Ms. Mutuli said.In response, UNHCR has dispatched a refugee status determination team to Costa Rica to help the Government deal with the growing backlog of asylum claims. The team is interviewing asylum seekers, reviewing pending cases, and providing advice, training and equipment to the Government. A similar UNHCR team has been working with the Government of Ecuador, which has received over 1,800 requests for asylum from Colombians so far this year, compared to less than 30 such requests in the first six months of 2000. Ms. Mutuli indicated that the problem might be more widespread than it appears. “The number of Colombians seeking asylum in the region and further abroad likely represents only a small percentage of those Colombians currently outside their country, many of whom may not have asked for asylum,” she said, adding, “hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Colombia itself.”Meanwhile, the UN Information Centre in Colombia today reported that Lars Franklin, who was serving as UN Resident Coordinator in the country, died of natural causes. A national of Sweden, Mr. Franklin was a career diplomat who worked for the UN for the last seven years, first in Guatemala and, since May 2001, in Colombia.