The joint venture that plans to build an underwater Baltic Sea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany on Friday handed in application documents to the Swedish government.

The move was announced shortly after members of the opposition and government held a special debate in parliament on the project.

Members of the opposition cited a recent survey by Swedish radio news that said 72 percent of the legislators that answered a recent poll opposed the envisaged pipeline through the Baltic Sea, some 10 percent were in favor while 17 percent were undecided.

Anders Ygeman, environment spokesman for the opposition Social Democrats, said the centre-right government had "abandoned the previous government's stance" and lacked support also among many of its own parliamentary backers.

Ygeman urged Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren to "clearly state" that the gas pipeline was "not in Sweden's interest," adding that Sweden and its Baltic neighbours should probe a land-based route.

Carlgren said he would not be drawn on the possible merits or disadvantages of the project in order not to jeopardize the process, but underlined it would be evaluated according to "tough environmental assessments."

Critics have cited potential hazards posed by chemical weapons dumped in the Sea after World War II.

Carl B Hamilton, member of parliament for the Liberal Party that is part of the four-party coalition, said he remained skeptical.

He said Foreign Minister Carl Bildt should use his contacts in the region to broker a deal to build the pipeline on land by bridging outstanding differences, mainly between Russia and Poland.

Hamilton added that in future the increased oil tanker shipping from Russia through the Baltic Sea posed an "even greater threat" to the environment.

The 1,200-kilometer pipeline would run from Viborg in Russia to Greifswald, Germany and was planned to pass through the Swedish economic zone, east of the Swedish Baltic Sea island Gotland.

Sweden is not dependent on Russian energy exports, but critics of the project have noted that Moscow has at times used energy as a means to gain political leverage, citing the example of Ukraine.

Nord Stream, the Russian-German joint venture, said it had submitted an application for the construction of the pipelines as well as an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

The group said it was willing to "discuss all relevant factual issues with authorities, organizations and citizens."

Copyright 2007 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

Related Project
Nord Stream Pipeline
Facility Type: Pipeline Owner: Nord Stream AG
Scope: New Construction Location: Vyborg, Russia to Greifswald, Germany Russian Federation