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  As Palin Assails Russia, Gazprom Meets With Alaskan OfficialsOctober 14, 1998 21:19 Gazprom, the biggest Russian energy company, offered to help Alaska increase natural gas supplies to the U.S. mainland, even after Governor Sarah Palin warned against Russian resurgence while campaigning for vice president.

The Russian state-run natural gas company sent eight senior executives to Anchorage for talks Monday with officials from the state Department of Natural Resources and with the ConocoPhillips chief executive, Jim Mulva, state and company officials said.

Gazprom, which supplies a quarter of the natural gas used by Europe, is seeking to increase its reach with projects around the world, including in North America. The courtship of Alaska comes less than a month after Palin criticized Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for "rearing his head" regarding the Russian maritime border with her state.

"The timing is as interesting as the visit itself," said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib Financial in Moscow. "Gazprom's entire senior management goes into Sarah Palin's backyard during a contentious election. There's a message there."

The Gazprom chief executive, Aleksei Miller, was accompanied by his deputies Valery Golubev, who served alongside Putin in the KGB, and Alexander Medvedev, who oversees Russian exports of natural gas. Gazprom said its executives had held a working breakfast with Walter Hickel, a former governor of Alaska and a supporter of Palin.