Dec. 27, 2002, 10:29PM
3 nations sign agreement for Afghanistan pipelineStaff
and News Reports
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an
ambitious agreement with the president of Afghanistan on Friday to
build a gas pipeline through the war-ravaged country.
The 910-mile Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline would carry natural gas
from the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan to energy-hungry
Pakistan. It would be one of the largest direct foreign investment
projects in Afghanistan in decades.
"It is a project mainly for the next generations of our countries
and important for the energy consumption of the three countries and
the whole region," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said after signing
the deal with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Pakistani
Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali.
The project has yet to secure financial backing from investors
leery of making such a massive investment in a country where
U.S.-led forces are still hunting Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network
and remnants of the ousted Taliban regime.
Karzai defended his country's prospects, though, saying the
security situation in Afghanistan "can be considered one of the best
in the region" and his government would do whatever is necessary to
see that the pipeline is completed.
Officials estimate that the pipeline would pump $300 million in
annual transit fees into Afghanistan's ruined economy and create
The project would also secure an additional source of energy for
Pakistan and provide an additional export outlet for Turkmenistan,
which has the fifth-largest natural gas reserves in the world.
The pipeline, which would carry up to 700 billion cubic feet of
gas a year, could also be extended to India, officials said.
The project was proposed in 1997 by a consortium led by Unocal
Corp. But the company abandoned it after the United States fired
cruise missiles into Afghanistan the following year in a strike
Unocal has absolutely no interest in getting back into that
pipeline project, said spokesman Robert Wright from corporate
headquarters in El Segundo, Calif.
It formally withdrew in December of 1998 and now has other
projects. It is hard to imagine the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline
getting financing, Wright added.
The Japanese conglomerate Itochu has expressed interest in
participating in the pipeline.