(dpa) - Estonia remains committed to helping build a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania, but will oppose delays in shutting down a Soviet-built plant that the European Union wants closed, news reports said Friday.
Closing Lithuania's Ignalina plant as planned would force Lithuania to speed up the process of building a new one, the Baltic News Service quoted Estonian energy official Einar Kisel as saying.
Estonia has been frustrated with delays in the international efforts to build a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania to offset the region's energy dependence on Russia.
"Estonia and its energy company Eesti Energia have never said that they won't participate in the construction of the new nuclear power plant in Lithuania, or that they would withdraw from the project," Kalev Vaper, an Estonian Economics Ministry spokesman, told Lithuanian news agency ELTA on Friday.
At the same time, he reiterated Estonia's opposition to delaying the closure of the nuclear power plant.
Estonian Economy Minister Juhan Parts recently suggested building a nuclear plant in Estonia itself, causing media speculation that his country might withdraw from the new Ignalina project.
Four EU members - Poland, plus the Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia - plan to cooperate on the new 4-billion-euro nuclear power plant, which they expect to build by 2015.
As part of its deal to join the EU, Lithuania pledged to shut down Ignalina by the end of 2009. The plant supplies 75 per cent of the country's electricity and its premature closure would force Lithuania to rely on Russia for energy.
Lithuania also hopes to persuade the European Commission, the EU executive, to extend the plant's life beyond 2009.