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Turkmen President Reshuffles Key Energy Officials

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov
ASHGABAT (Reuters) -- Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has reshuffled the gas-producing Central Asian country's senior energy officials, accusing some of negligence and inefficiency, state media said.

Berdymukhammedov demoted Oil and Gas Minister Annaguly Deryaev, naming him the head of state oil firm Turkmenneft. Engineer and geologist Oraznur Nurmyradov, 50, has become the new minister.

Analysts say Turkmenistan has lost billions of dollars this year due to a row with Russia which used to be the main buyer of its gas. Moscow halted imports in April after a pipeline explosion and demanded a review of supply terms.

The two sides have said they are close to an agreement but supplies have yet to restart.

Berdymukhamedov also sacked the head of state gas company Turkmengaz, Dovlet Mommaev, "due to health concerns" and fired the head of another state firm, Turkmenneftegazstroy, which focuses on construction in the oil and gas sector.

Commenting on the reshuffle on state television, Berdymukhamedov accused the officials of "total negligence."

"One should not ask: Why boost oil and gas output when demand is falling due to the global recession?" he said. "Quick recovery will follow the downturn...Energy will be in great demand."

Following the row with Russia, Turkmenistan has stepped up efforts to diversify gas exports. It will boost export capacities to Iran and launch a pipeline to China in December.

But analysts say the former Soviet republic needs to open up its potentially huge onshore gas fields to foreign investors if it wants to significantly increase output and secure access to the European market.