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Central Asia/Caucasus: U.S. Opens Caspian Oil Conference

Washington, 19 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Energy Secretary Frederico Pena says Kazakhstan has become the fifth nation to pledge its support for a main Caspian Sea oil pipeline that would extend from Baku in Azerbaijan to a terminal on Turkey's Mediterranean coast.

Pena opened an international conference in Washington today on Caspian Sea oil development. He says Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev endorsed the Baku to Turkey line in talks with senior U.S. officials, including President Bill Clinton, yesterday.

Pena returned last week from a trip to the region. He said Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey have already pledged support for the Baku-Turkey route as the main pipeline. However, Pena added that the U.S. favors a multiple pipeline scheme for the Caspian oil. That includes lines through Russia and to China.

Russian Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy Valery Garipov disagreed with the American proposal, telling the conference that it could be up to four times cheaper to use at least two Russian pipeline proposals as the main carriers of Caspian oil.