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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
EU pushes for Kazakh gas pipeline
Gas pipeline (Russian)
Russia dominates gas exports to Europe from the east
Top officials from the European Union and the US are visiting Kazakhstan in an attempt to revive the idea of a gas pipeline bypassing Russia.

Kazakhstan's energy minister told the EU's energy commissioner his country favoured the proposal for a pipeline across the Caspian Sea.

A recent gas row between Russia and Ukraine raised EU fears it was becoming overly dependent on Russia for supply.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney is also in Kazakhstan for talks on the issue.

Mr Cheney lashed out at Russia in a speech given in Lithuania on Thursday, accusing it of using its vast energy resources to blackmail its neighbours.

Russia, which denies using energy as a political weapon, described his remarks as "completely incomprehensible".

Dick Cheney is due to meet Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the capital, Astana.

'Feasible route'

Kazakhstan will be commissioning a feasibility study for a trans-Caspian gas pipeline, Kazakh Energy Minister Baktykozha Izmukhambetov told visiting EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs on Thursday.

Dick Cheney speaks in Vilnius, Lithuania
It is not clear if Dick Cheney's speech marked a US policy change
"A... pipeline from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and further to Europe is seen as one of the feasible routes," he said.

Kazakhstan, he added, should be pumping up to 45 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year by 2015.

Mr Piebalgs said Brussels viewed Kazakhstan, currently a big oil exporter, as an important future gas supplier and business partner.

"Strengthening discussions with Kazakhstan in the energy sector is of great importance for improving the security of energy supplies to the EU," he said.

He was due to visit Kazakhstan's Caspian city of Atyrau and the giant offshore Kashagan oilfield on Friday.

Kazakhstan wants to export more energy but has had difficulty developing export routes which do not cross Russia, a potential rival for export markets, the BBC's Ian MacWilliam reports from Atyrau.


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