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Nightmare predicted for Heathrow traffic

LONDON – A public sector strike in Britain next week threatens to paralyze operations at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport.

BAA, the airport’s operator, said Friday 12-hour delays for arriving passengers are likely because the Nov. 30 strike will hit the U.K. Border Agency’s ability to support normal operations.

An estimated 2 million workers are expected to protest changes in public sector pensions with a 24-hour walkout – billed as potentially the biggest union action since 1979.

The lines at Heathrow’s immigration counters are expected to be so long that passengers will need to be held on planes, BAA warned.

“This in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport, with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations of departing aircraft and diversions outside the U.K. for arriving aircraft,” Normand Boivin, the chief operating officer for Heathrow, warned in a letter to airlines.

Associated Press

Russia increases control of gas exports

MOSCOW – Russia’s state-controlled natural gas company bought the remaining stake in Belarus’ gas pipeline system Friday to become its sole owner in a move that strengthens Moscow’s control over gas exports to the West.

Russia is the main ally and sponsor of Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, but he had been reluctant to yield control over the pipeline network and other Belarusian economic assets in the past, accusing Russia of trying to erode his nation’s sovereignty.

Lukashenko’s stance, however, has been softened recently by a severe economic crisis that has weakened his power and made him more prone to compromise.

Russia’s Gazprom already had owned 50 percent of Belarus’ pipeline operator, Beltransgaz, and wanted to gain full control. It said in a statement after the signing that it agreed to pay $2.5 billion for the remaining 50 percent stake.

Russia provides about a quarter of the natural gas that Europe consumes, with 80 percent of it going through Ukraine. The rest is shipped through Belarus and Turkey.

Associated Press