News // Oil and gas worldwide
Russia, Iran fight U.S. over oil pipeline project
11 March 2001 , 08:27403
Just outside the Caspian city of Baku, gas hisses from a hillside sending bright orange flames two feet into the air -- evidence of the oil and gas riches that lie beneath the surface.
The United States, Russia and Iran are competing for the right to bring that fuel to the hungry markets of the West, and experts say a U.S.-backed plan to ship the oil via Turkey, bypassing Russia, is slowly gaining the upper hand.
Oil companies could begin drawing up plans for a 1,080-mile pipeline from Azerbaijan's capital of Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan as early as June. If it progresses on schedule, construction could begin by summer 2002, and oil could flow before the end of 2004.
"The chances (for the pipeline) are increasing every day," said Sabit Bagirov, an Azeri political analyst who served as president of the state oil company from 1992-93.
But skeptics caution that a resurgent Russia may put up a stronger fight as the pipeline moves forward and that even after paying $120 million for the engineering plan, oil companies could back out of the $2.7-billion project.
And they add that although the Clinton administration strongly backed the project, the new U.S. administration has yet to put its weight behind the plan.
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