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Argentina says natural gas deal reached with Russia's Gazprom

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 8 (Reuters) - State-controlled Russian energy company Gazprom OAO plans to invest in Argentina's natural gas sector, the South American country's industry ministry said on Wednesday.

Debora Giorgi said in a statement that she met in Russia with Gazprom head Alexey Miller, who told her a "confidential" deal had been reached with Argentine state-run energy company YPF SA to explore for and produce gas in Argentina.

"It is estimated the investment will be of $1 billion dollars, to start with," the statement said, without clarifying whether the entire amount would be provided by Gazprom or divided with YPF.

A YPF press official had no comment on the industry ministry's statement and no one from Gazprom was immediately available for comment.

On Tuesday, Gazprom put a statement on its website saying that Miller met Giorgi in St. Petersburg.

"The meeting participants looked at the development prospects for the bilateral cooperation in the gas sector, with an emphasis on exploration and production of gas from Argentine gas fields," the Gazprom statement said.

A Gazprom deal would be the second major investment for Argentina after Chevron Corp agreed last year to invest $1.24 billion into the promising Vaca Muerta, or Dead Cow, shale formation in Patagonia.

Other oil companies drilling in Vaca Muerta include Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Argentina is keen to reverse a costly energy deficit that is pressuring foreign reserves as Latin America's No. 3 economy is hit by fallout from the government's July bond default.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein. Editing by Andre Grenon)