Bridas says negotiations are "well advanced" with Taleban

Dec 08, 1997 01:00 AM

Nov. 4, 1997 Argentinean Bridas has said it was close to signing an agreement with Afghanistan's Taleban to build a gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan, crossing through Afghanistan. "The state of negotiations is well advanced, we are in the final stages," Sebastian Otero Asp, the head of Bridas' Afghan operations, told.
Bridas has a rival in a consortium led by Unocal to build the pipeline. Unocal announced the creation of its consortium to build a $ 1.9 bn pipeline in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat at the end of Oct..
But the president of Unocal, John Imle, told in Islamabad last week that it had held no negotiations with any of the factions in war-torn Afghanistan and would wait until there was a government to deal with.
Otero said Bridas was holding negotiations with the Taleban authorities. "Now we are discussing with the acting Minister of Mines and Industry," he said. Otero said Bridas would start building the pipeline as soon as the deal was signed, despite the country being divided and the anti-Taleban opposition alliance being recognised as the legitimate government by most of the outside world.
"As soon as we sign, we will start building. Bridas doesn't want to get involved in politics at all. Our main interest is to make business - there is a market in Pakistan and there is gas in Turkmenistan," he said.
Bridas and Unocal want to build a pipeline to transport 20 bn cubic metres of gas to Pakistan, with the possibility of an extension to India. Bridas has a 75 % interest in the Yashlar gas field in eastern Turkmenistan.
The company has recently merged most of its South American operations with Amoco, but the projected Central Asian pipeline was not included in the deal.
Unocal is lead company in Central Asia Gas Pipeline Ltd (Centgas), a joint venture formed last month to build a 1,271-km (760 mile) pipeline across Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Other partners include Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil, the Turkmen government, Japan's Inpex and ITOCHU Oil Exploration, Korea's Hyundai, Pakistan's Crescent Group and Russian oil giant Gazprom.
Centgas says it will build and operate the pipeline and that the gas could eventually be sold in India, as well as in Pakistan, where energy needs are rising 10 % a year.

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