Leaders from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan are about to sign a framework agreement in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, examining legal mechanisms for the establishment of a consortium to build and operate a 1,500-km pipeline from Turkmenistan's Daulatabad gas oilfield to Multan in central Pakistan via southwestern Afghanistan.
The long-delayed US $3.2 billion Trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline could serve to pump millions of dollars into the ruined Afghan economy and create thousands of jobs. For its part, Pakistan would garner more than $300 million in transit fees annually and gain access to the supply.
The project was originally launched in 1997 by a consortium led by the US energy giant Unocal, but was abandoned after the US military strikes against Al-Qaeda in August 1998. The tripartite project was revived at a meeting in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, in May. With the Asian Development Bank (ADB) carrying out a feasibility study on the project, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, and Pakistan's prime minister, Zafarullah Jamali, are expected to sign the deal on Friday.
Also in Turkmenistan, authorities arrested a former foreign minister, Boris Shikhmuradov, for allegedly plotting to kill Niyazov, the Associated Press reported. Shikhmuradov is accused of planning the attack on 25 November in Ashgabat in which gunmen opened fire on Niyazov's motorcade. Turkmenistan also expelled the ambassador of its neighbour, Uzbekistan, on Wednesday, over his alleged role in the assassination bid. International human rights organisations have criticised the crackdown following the attack, in which dozens of people
The Interfax-Kazakastan news agency reported on Monday that the ADB was working on a mid-term assistance strategy for Kazakhstan between 2003 and 2005. According to the ADB's country director, Kazuhiko Higuchi, the plan would focus on private-sector development, improved administration of the country's vast
natural resources, and regional economic cooperation. The ADB has lent the former Soviet republic a total of $500 million since it joined the bank in 1994.
In another bilateral assistance agreement, the government of Germany granted Tajikistan $1.5 million on Monday to fight tuberculosis. The disease in one of the major public health concerns in the mountainous and impoverished republic of
6.2 million people.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council, while reaffirming its strong commitment to assist the transitional administration in Afghanistan, welcomed and endorsed the Kabul Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations by unanimously adopting resolution 1453 on Tuesday.
The Declaration was signed on 22 December by the leaders of Afghanistan and its six neighbours - China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It expressed the signatories' determination that the long suffering Afghan people should enjoy security, stability, prosperity, territorial integrity, democracy and human rights.
While committing themselves to non-interference in each other's internal affairs, the neighbours jointly declared their willingness to defeat terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.
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