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November 20, 2009

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Pipeline boost for Turkmenistan

ENERGY-RICH Turkmenistan could become a top supplier to fill a Western-backed natural gas pipeline aimed at reducing Europe's dependency on Russian gas, a top executive on the project said yesterday.

The planned 7.9 billion euro (US$11.7 billion) Nabucco pipeline would run 3,300 kilometers to Turkey through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and end in Austria, circumventing Russia.

"We hope and expect Turkmenistan to be one of the main suppliers of gas to various markets through Nabucco," consortium Vice President Johann Gallistl told an investors conference in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat.

The remarks highlighted the crucial role that Western politicians and energy executives see the Central Asian nation playing in ensuring European energy supplies over the coming decades.

Europe gets about 20 percent of its gas from Russia. A shutdown in January of Russian gas supplies to the European Union amid Russia's price disputes with Ukraine has encouraged the EU to search for alternate routes.

Nabucco could be hindered, however, by territorial disputes over the Caspian Sea, which separates Turkmenistan from the pipelines that would feed into Nabucco. Talks on how to divide the sea between five nations, including Russia and Iran, have dragged on for years.


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