Washington is helping Kazakhstan to protect Caspian oil

Feb 25, 2004 01:00 AM

The US government is helping Kazakhstan protect its interests in the oil-rich Caspian Sea, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in the Kazakh capital.
The assistance is expected to include training and equipment, possibly including radar and other surveillance equipment to allow the Kazakh military to monitor its waters for smugglers, officials said.

The support also serves to give the United States a regional ally with interests in the Caspian, providing a check on Iranian power in the southern part of the sea, US officials said.
"The Caspian security in the western portion of Kazakhstan is important for this country, it is important to the world that the security be assured in that area," Rumsfeld said after talks with Kazakh Defence Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev. Kazakhstan and other countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus region of south-western Asia have become important partners for the United States over the last decade.

In Washington, President George W. Bush met with Georgia's newly elected president Mikhail Saakashvili and said he supports Georgia's demands for the withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory.
"We expect the Russian government to honour the Istanbul commitment," Bush said, referring to a 1999 accord on troop withdrawals. "The Istanbul commitment made it very clear that Russia would leave those bases. We will continue to work with the president and (Russian) President Putin on that commitment."

The Russians said the accord committed them only to discussing troop-withdrawal.
In a related development, Shell Oil and a group of other oil companies announced an agreement to develop the Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan. The field was discovered in 2000 and is estimated to have 38 bn barrels of oil. Production is expected to begin in 2008 and eventually reach 1.2 mm bpd. Among Shell's partners are ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

In his talks in the Kazakh capital, Rumsfeld praised Kazakhstan as a terrorism-fighting ally and cited the country as an example of the success of disarmament. When it broke from the Soviet Union, it inherited a vast stockpile of nuclear weapons, as well as chemical and biological devices. It voluntarily rid itself of them all and was no longer a nuclear power by 1995.
"Kazakhstan sends an impressive model of how a country can do it," Rumsfeld said. "Had Iraq followed the Kazakhstan model and disarmed the way Kazakhstan did, there would not have been a war."

Rumsfeld also met with members of a platoon of 27 military engineers Kazakhstan sent to Iraq to assist in bomb-disposal and reconstruction efforts. That platoon returned home after a six-month deployment and another unit is headed to Iraq. Kazakhstan is looking to build a force that can be deployed on UN peacekeeping missions, US officials said.
The two countries signed a five-year co-operation plan in September for the delivery of Huey helicopters, C-130 Hercules military cargo aircraft and ships for the Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea forces, the Kazakh Defence Ministry said.

Under the plan, the United States will also supply equipment for Kazakh alpine troops and provide anti-terrorism training. Kazakhstan has already received 40 US Humvees. Russia, Kazakhstan's northern neighbour and ally, is also expected to supply some weapons for those forces, US officials said.
Since 1992, Kazakhstan has also received about $ 200 mm from the United States to withdraw Soviet nuclear weapons from its territory, clean up the aftermath of nuclear tests and shut down military facilities once used to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Source: AP
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