Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev reached an agreement with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev on Monday to import 1 billion cubic metres of Azeri gas a year from 2010, the government in Sofia said, according to Reuters.

The agreement follows last year`s memorandum of understanding between Bulgaria and Azerbaijan on the exports of 1 bcm of gas to the Balkan country, which is trying to ease its dependence on Russian gas.

"Next week, Bulgargaz and the Azeri gas company will start technical talks on the concrete parameters of the future agreement," the Bulgarian government said in a statement.

Stanishev and Aliyev met in Budapest, where both will attend a conference on the European Union-backed Nabucco pipeline project on Tuesday, which aims to bring Caspian and Middle Eastern gas to Europe to reduce the continent`s reliance on Russian energy.

But to import Caspian gas, Bulgaria will need to build a 250 million euro 80-km stretch to link its gas network to an existing Turkey-Greece pipeline, which is already carrying Azeri gas to Europe.

Sofia is yet to raise money for the plan and receive Athens` and Ankara`s consent, which could take well over a year, industry officials have said.

Bulgaria, which is almost fully dependent on Russian oil and gas, was one of the worst hit in a Moscow-Kiev gas row which cut Russian supplies to Europe via Ukraine for two weeks earlier this month.