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UPDATE 2-Turkey says Syria halts power imports, network damaged

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KAYSERI, Turkey, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Syria had stoppedelectricity imports from Turkey while it repairs its powernetwork and there is no political reason for the interruption ofthe supplies, which last year met a fifth of Syrian needs,Turkish officials said.

Turkey, a strong critic of the Syrian government's19-month-old crackdown on a popular uprising, has said it willnot cut power and water to its southern neighbour as this couldworsen a humanitarian crisis that has created more than 300,000refugees.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Thursday Syria haddecided to stop buying electricity from Turkey last week andthat its neighbour could resume purchases of power when it wasable.

Yasar Arslan, chief executive of Aksa Natural Gas, said hiscompany's contract with Syria remained in effect and he expectedpower transmission to start again this month after the repair ofthe Syrian network was completed.

It was not immediately clear what problems had hit thenetwork. Media reports said the Syrian power grid has beenseverely damaged in the conflict between President Basharal-Assad's forces and rebels.

NATO member Turkey was once an ally of Assad but turnedagainst him after his violent response to an uprising in which,according to the United Nations, more than 30,000 people havedied.

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WRAPUP 5-Russia says Turkey endangered lives by groundingplane:

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Turkey has massed troops along its 900-km (560 mile)long-border in the past week after gunfire and shells fromnorthern Syria hit Turkish territory, prompting it to respond inkind.

"If Syria wants to start buying again, this door is open.There is no problem in Turkey's supply and production," Yildizsaid.

Turkey sold 1,170.6 gigawatt hours of electricity to Syriain 2011, according to the state transmission company, or about20 percent of Syria's needs.

In a filing with the stock exchange, the parent company ofAksa Natural Gas, Aksa Enerji , said it had signed anew contract to give Syria access to 500 megawatts of capacityafter concluding a previous agreement of 500 megawatts.

(Reporting by Evrim Ergin; Writing by Seltem Iyigun; Editing byPatrick Graham)

((nicholas.tattersall@thomsonreuters.com)(Reuters Messaging:nicholas.tattersall.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: TURKEY SYRIA/ELECTRICITY