Turkmenistan needs Russian gas

Turkmenistan's leader was slated to meet with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials Monday for talks on natural gas supplies and other issues. Saparmurat Niyazov's Central Asian nation is the second largest producer of natural gas in the former Soviet Union, after Russia, and its vast energy resources are playing an increasingly important role in the region's geopolitics.

The visit to Moscow comes as Russia is becoming increasingly assertive with its own gas supplies. A dispute with Ukraine led to the interruption of gas to Europe earlier this month in a spat that was widely viewed as politically motivated.

Niyazov, who holds absolute power in the former Soviet republic, is scheduled to travel to Beijing in April to sign a major agreement to build a gas pipeline and supply energy-hungry China with up to 30 billion cubic meters (1 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas a year, reports the AP. N.U.