Turkmenistan's interim leader pledges to stick to gas pipeline contract with China

Turkmenistan's acting president has pledged that his resource-rich ex-Soviet state would stick to its gas pipeline deal with China, according to remarks televised Thursday.

Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov who became interim leader last month after the death of President Saparmurat Niyazov, and is expected to win Feb. 11 elections for full office said Wednesday at a meeting with voters in the eastern city of Turkmenabat that the pipeline contract would be completed as planned by 2009.

"We will strive to deliver our energy resources, especially natural gas, to world markets, adhering to the existing contracts and looking for new partners," Berdymukhamedov said.

Under a deal signed by the two countries in April 2006, China will buy 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from the Central Asian country over 30 years, to be delivered through a new pipeline, reports AP.

Turkmenistan possesses the second-biggest gas reserves among all ex-Soviet republics, after Russia, and its resources are playing an increasingly important role in regional geopolitics.

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