KRAKOW, Poland - Russia and Poland may not agree a gas contract by the end of this year, Poland's Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak said on Monday, contradicting earlier comments by Warsaw and Kremlin officials.

In October, Poland's gas monopoly PGNiG and Russia's Gazprom agreed on conditions of increased gas supplies to Poland in 2010 and beyond and the government's approval seemed just a formality.

In the current situation, I am not so certain anymore that we will reach the gas agreement by the end of the year, Pawlak told reporters.

It is hard to understand Russians that they are bringing up new points. It seems the latest extension of negotiating (area) means we have to be patient, he added. The deal that would guarantee Poland would have enough gas to make it through the winter without cut-offs for its chemical industry was supposed to be signed last week, but was delayed until early December at the last minute.

Negotiators said the final agreement was delayed due to technical and legal matters that would be resolved during next round of negotiations planned for a week after Dec 5.

Poland, which imports about two-thirds of its gas from Russia, faces an annual shortfall of 2.5 billion cubic metres from 2010 and needs a new deal to plug the gap.

Under a preliminary agreement clinched between PGNiG and Gazprom last month, Poland would import 10.3 billion cubic metres of gas annually directly from Gazprom until 2037, up from about 7-8 billion metres earlier. (Reporting by Wojciech Zurawski; writing by Patryk Wasilewski; editing by James Jukwey)