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Azerbaijan: Ceremony Kicks Off Pipeline Construction

Sangachal, Azerbaijan; 18 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A ceremony marking the start of construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was held today outside the Azerbaijani capital Baku. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev was joined by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, and U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham for the event.

Abraham called the pipeline one of the world's most important energy projects. It will be the first major export route for Caspian Sea oil to bypass Russia.

Aliyev said the project joined his country, Georgia, and Turkey "economically and politically."

The 1,760-kilometer-long pipeline, which is being built at an estimated cost of $3 billion, will run through all three countries. Completion is scheduled for 2004 with the first oil due to flow the following year.