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VIENNA, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Stakeholders in the Nabucco gas pipeline must be bold and press ahead with the 7.9 billion euro ($11 billion) project because there are enough supplies to fill it, the European Union's energy commissioner told a newspaper.
Nabucco, part of the EU's effort to diversify its natural gas supplies and reduce reliance on Russia, is intended to bring up to 31 billion cubic metres of gas annually from the Caspian region to an Austrian hub via Turkey and the Balkans. It aims to open in 2015.
"It is clear that there is a certain risk. But if you want to try and make profits without risk, well that doesn't work," EU Commissioner Guenther Oettinger was quoted as saying in an interview with Austria's Die Presse published on Thursday.
He said he was sure the Vienna-based consortium would make a final investment decision on the pipeline this year.
The consortium has said it needs to make sure gas supplies are fixed before it makes this decision -- which is essential for construction to begin in 2012.
But potential supplier countries like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have signalled that they want the consortium to take the first step and decide on financing before concrete supply agreements can be secured.
Oettinger said Nabucco's partners should try to find a way out of this chicken-and-egg situation because the supplier countries had done their part towards realising the project.
"Now everything is prepared so that the companies can make their investment decision.
"...I have great respect for the courage and openness of the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. I believe therefore that OMV and also the others must and can move forward boldly."
Nabucco aims to transport its first gas from northern Iraq and Azerbaijan in 2015 with supplies from Turkmenistan coming later.
Azerbaijan last month committed to providing Europe with gas, whereas talks with Turkmenistan are not as advanced. [ID:nLDE70E07P] (Reporting by Sylvia Westall, editing by Anthony Barker)