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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Central Asia gas deal signed
Musharraf at trilateral summit
Pakistani President Musharaff (centre) hosted the talks
The presidents of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have signed an agreement to tap Central Asia's huge gas reserves.

Pipelines
The project has been around for some years
The three leaders - Pakistani President Musharraf, interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and Turkmen President Niyazov - agreed on the construction of a $2bn pipeline to bring gas from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan.

The idea for such a pipeline has existed for a number of years - but the main stumbling block has been the situation in Afghanistan.

The US company Unocal led a consortium in the 1990s which undertook feasibility studies, but it pulled out of the project in 1998.

There are now hopes the plan can be revived following the removal of the Taleban rulers in Afghanistan, and the restoration of a measure of stability to the country.

Oil and transport links

Oil ministers from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan arrived in Pakistan earlier in the week to draw up a memorandum of understanding.

President Niyazov of Turkmenistan
President Niyazov wants alternatives to Russia
Officials in Islamabad said the 1,500-kilometre (950-mile) pipeline would take gas from the Daulatabad fields in Turkmenistan to the south-western Pakistani port of Gawadar

The Pakistani news agency APP said that construction of a parallel oil pipeline as well as rail and road connections were also on the agenda.

Afghan officials believe the pipeline could generate significant revenues for the impoverished country in the form of transit fees.

There are also suggestions that the pipeline could eventually supply gas to India.

Turkmenistan is keen to find ways of exporting its oil and gas which do not depend on Russia.

However, analysts point out that the situation in Afghanistan is still far from secure, and that the recent tensions between India and Pakistan could overshadow the project.

Western nations and companies are also interested in developing pipelines through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Black Sea and Turkey as an alternative to the Afghan route.

See also:

13 May 02 | Business
22 Jan 02 | South Asia
08 Nov 01 | Americas
29 Oct 01 | South Asia
07 Nov 00 | South Asia
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