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Construction of gas pipeline around Caspian to start in 2008

Russia's prime minister said Friday the construction of a pipeline to pump Central Asian gas along the Caspian Sea coast and through Russia would begin in the H2 of 2008.

Speaking to journalists after talks with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov, Mikhail Fradkov said the date for the project, set to rival a US-sponsored pipeline across the inland sea, bypassing Russia, would be stipulated in a deal between Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to be drafted by September 1. „We have given instructions in line with presidential accords. By September 1 we have to draft an inter-governmental agreement on the construction of a gas pipeline and the reconstruction of the existing pipeline system, with the latter project to include Uzbekistan,” Fradkov said.

The presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan agreed in mid-May to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan along Kazakhstan's Caspian coast and on to Russia, the sole re-exporter of Turkmen gas. The leaders said they would sign an agreement to this effect in September. Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier the restoration of Soviet-era pipelines going to Russia via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan would make it possible to boost gas transit by at least 12 billion cubic meters by 2012.

Despite the agreement on the Caspian pipeline, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said the Caspian project bypassing Russia remained on the agenda, as provided a means of diversifying gas supplies. (