The Estonian government, meeting on Thursday, declined a request by the Nord Stream AG company to perform studies in Estonia's special maritime economic zone for the third and fourth branches of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

"The government upheld the Foreign Ministry's proposal to refuse permission for the above studies under the law on the economic zone," a source in the Estonian government's press service has told Interfax.

The law rules that permission may be denied if the planned exploratory work "envisages drilling on the continental shelf, or blasting operations, or may cause potential leaks of harmful substances into the sea or threatens the conservation of bio-resources", the source explained.

On August 22, Nord Stream AG applied for permission for exploratory studies in Estonia's economic zone.

The government turned down a similar request in 2007. The same year, the Estonian parliament called on the Baltic Sea countries to ban pipeline construction in their waters. But the call went unheeded. By now, two Nord Stream pipelines have connected Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea. Estonia's position brought about alterations in the initial route. As a result the pipeline crossed the Finnish coast, even though the local sea bottom made it technically more complicated.

Estonia's refusal is motivated by environmental concerns as well as political fears that Russia might use its Navy to guard the Nord Stream.

The second request encountered opposition from the ministries of defense, environmental protection, economics and communications, as well as from Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.

"I do not see any major changes since the previous decision was passed. Therefore, I cannot forecast a position that would differ from the decision adopted by the former government," Ansip said in August 2012.

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