plans gas pipeline
Monday, 13 May, 2002, 10:20
GMT 11:20 UK
The pipeline is Afghanistan's biggest foreign investment project
Afghanistan hopes to strike a deal later this month to build a $2bn pipeline through the country to take gas from energy-rich Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India.
Afghan interim ruler Hamid Karzai is to hold talks with his Pakistani and Turkmenistan counterparts later this month on Afghanistan's biggest foreign investment project, said Mohammad Alim Razim, minister for Mines and Industries.
"The work on the project will start after an agreement is expected to be struck at the coming summit," Mr Razim said.
The construction of the 850-kilometre pipeline had been previously discussed between Afghanistan's former Taliban regime, US oil company Unocal and Bridas of Argentina.
The project was abandoned after the US launched missile attacks on Afghanistan in 1999.
US company preferred
Mr Razim said Unocal was the "lead company" among those that would build the pipeline, which would bring 30bn cubic meters of Turkmen gas to market annually.
Unocal - which leads a consortium of companies from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Japan and South Korea - has maintained the project is both economically and technically feasible once Afghan stability was secured.
"The Afghan side assures all sides about the security of the pipeline and will take all responsibilities for it," Mr Razim said.
Afghanistan plans to build a road linking Turkmenistan with Pakistan parallel to the pipeline, to supply nearby villages with gas, and also to pump Afghan gas for export, Mr Razim said.
The government would also earn transit fees from the export of gas and oil and hoped to take over ownership of the pipeline after 30 years, he said.
The Asian Development Bank
(ADB) has been surveying routes for transferring local gas from northern
Afghan areas to Kabul, and to iron ore mines at the Haji Gak pass further
The pipeline is expected
to be built with funds from donor countries for the reconstruction of Afghanistan
as well as ADB loans, he said.