Oil prices have dropped to around $102 a barrel in Asia amid hopes upcoming international talks may help stave off military action over Iran’s nuclear program. It is said that Israel has signaled it would accept, as a first priority, world powers focusing on persuading the regime to cease higher-level uranium enrichment when stalled six-party nuclear negotiations with Tehran are resumed. A report by South Korean intelligence officials has warned that North Korea appears to be preparing for a nuclear weapons test. Following the expiration of Rosneft’s exploration license, Chechnya’s government has invited the state oil company of Azerbaijan, SOCAR, to explore for oil in the troubled region. It has been reported that Gazprom may abandon plans to pipe Arctic gas from its Shtokman project, which has raised fears in Europe about the reliability of its supplies in the long term. Gazprom Neft is apparently the first potential bidder contemplating buying a stake in Greece’s refiner Hellenic Petroleum. Russia’s second largest oil producer, LUKOIL which hopes to replenish its reserves, will reportedly invest $100 million to launch exploration activities on its offshore block in Sierra Leone. Bulgaria’s opposition Socialists have filed a motion of no confidence in the government following its decision to abandon plans for the Belene nuclear power plant project with Russia.