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Russia's Gazprom close to getting pipeline deal

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's gas giant Gazprom has inched closer to getting approval for a major pipeline bound for large parts of Europe.

The South Stream pipeline, due to start operating in 2015, would ship up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Russia under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and Italy in one leg, and Croatia and Greece in a second.

Gazprom's chief executive Alexei Miller said Tuesday that the final investment agreement on the South Stream would be unveiled on Wednesday while construction would begin on Dec. 7. But Gazprom has yet to secure Bulgaria's approval for the construction.

Market watchers have claimed that the project, funded by Gazprom, France's EdF, Italy's Eni and Germany's Wintershall, is too costly and is doomed to be unprofitable.