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Turkmenistan: Security Guarantees Obtained For Afghan Section Of Pipeline

Ashgabat, 19 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - Turkmenistan says that parties involved in a planned gas pipeline to Pakistan through Afghanistan's territory have held talks with all Afghan warring factions, and received the necessary security guarantees for pipeline construction.

Turkmenistan's Presidential spokesman, Kakamurad Balliyev, yesterday told Interfax news agency that officials from Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and the American and Saudi firms involved in the project agreed that all efforts must be made to start pipeline construction by the end of 1997. A protocol on construction of the gas pipeline was signed in Ashgabat last week. The protocol calls for a joint working group, which will hold its first meetings next month --Jun 4, in Islamabad and Jun 24 in Ashgabat. The group will then report to the oil-and-gas ministers of Turkmenistan and Pakistan.

Preliminary estimates put the cost of the 1400 km long pipeline at nearly $3 000 million. Up to 20 000 million cubic meters of gas are expected to flow through the pipeline a year.