* TAP beat Nabucco on 7 of 8 criteria
* The reason was not high gas prices in Italy, Greece
* Government continues to support South Stream
* GALSI pipeline important for Italy
The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project outscored rival Nabucco West on virtually all fronts to win the race to carry Azeri gas into Europe, a junior minister at Italy's Industry ministry told Reuters.
Azerbaijan's state energy company SOCAR and its partners in the Shah Deniz II gas field, including BP and Statoil , said on Friday they had selected TAP.
The project, linking a Turkish pipeline to southern Italy via Greece and Albania, plans to deliver 10 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Azeri gas to Europe each year beginning in 2019.
BP said there was a "substantial" commercial difference between the two competing pipeline projects, including the cost of shipping the Azeri gas and gas prices in the respective markets.
The head of Austria's OMV, part of the rival Nabucco project, said last week the TAP project had been chosen because of high gas prices in Italy and Greece.
"It was not for high gas prices in Italy and Greece," Claudio De Vincenti said in an interview.
TAP beat Nabucco on seven out of eight evaluation criteria, De Vincenti said, naming them as market opportunities, timing, scalability, management operability, funding available, project quality and transparency.
"It's a victory for Europe. There are no losers and we don't feel like winners," De Vincenti said.
TAP shareholders are Statoil, Swiss company AXPO and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas.
Rome, which claims TAP will help diversify energy supplies, plans to turn Italy into a gas hub for Europe and is supporting gas transport group Snam in efforts to integrate Europe's web of gas transmission networks.
De Vincenti said the government continued to support the South Stream gas pipeline project led by Italian major Eni and Russia's Gazprom.
The $39 billion South Stream link, which is expected to have a full capacity of 63 bcm, will stretch more than 2,000 kilometres through the Black Sea and Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to northeast Italy.
Some observers have expressed skepticism about the viability of a glut of large gas infrastructure projects at a time when overcapacity on Europe's natural gas markets is depressing prices and biting into profits.
Asked if Eni was dragging its feet on South Stream, De Vincenti said "no, I do not have this impression".
The junior minister also said the GALSI pipeline project, which will carry 8 bcm of Algerian gas into Italy through Sardinia, was also important for the country.
He said GALSI had put back the date for a final investment decision to the first few months of 2014.