Officials from Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan have met in Kabul to discuss a long-awaited project to build a gas pipeline across Afghanistan.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency Wednesday, Afghan Minister for Mines and Industries Juma Mohammad Mohammadi says the pipeline project could start as early as mid-2003. An official for the Asian Development Bank, which is paying for a feasibility study, says financing must first be secured. Early estimates of the project's cost run at about two-point-five billion dollars.
The pipeline would start in the vast gas fields of Turkmenistan and cross the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan before reaching Pakistan. Pakistani officials say India could be included in the project if tensions decrease between the two South Asian neighbors.
American oil giant Unocal and Bridas of Argentina were rivals to lead a consortium for the project during the 1990s, but plans were shelved because of Afghanistan's lingering civil war and the isolation of Taleban rulers.