Kazakhstan to join Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in June, prime minister says

Kazakhstan's prime minister told a Cabinet meeting that an agreement on joining the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was currently being examined by lawyers and was expected to be signed by the Kazakh and Azerbaijani presidents at a summit of the Council on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, or CICA, in June. The summit venue wasn't specified.

The BTC pipeline, which opened last May, allows the West to tap oil from the rich Caspian Sea fields, estimated to hold the world's third-largest reserves, bypassing Russia and Iran.

The Caspian's reserves are shared by Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

In March, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman urged Kazakhstan to speed up talks on joining the BTC.

Akhmetov said earlier that Kazakhstan could ship up to 30 million metric tons of oil (8.8 billion gallons) yearly through the 1,100-mile (680-mile) pipeline that runs from the Azerbaijani port capital of Baku, via Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, but no deal has been signed yet, the AP reports.

Kazakhstan possesses the largest oil deposits in the Caspian Sea. It currently produces about 1.3 million barrels a day. By 2015, its daily oil output is expected to reach 3 million barrels.

The 17-member CICA is a forum for discussions and consultations among Asian countries to promote stability and closer ties in the region.