The Financial Express [FRONT PAGE][ECONOMY]

Monday, June 2 1997

Unocol, Bridas wooing Taliban for $4.5bn Pak gas pipeline

Islamabad, June 1: Even as the Talibans are still fighting to establish complete control over Afghanistan, three multinationals, including two American, are trying to woo the Islamic militia for its support to the proposed multi-billion dollar oil and gas pipelines to be laid through the country.

The highly lucrative two pipelines one for oil and another for natural gas would be laid from Turkeministan to Pakistan via Afghanistan at a combined cost of $4.5 billion and the multinationals are leaving no stone unturned to win the coveted contract.

US multinational, Unocol and Argentinian Bridas, fought a bitter fight over the $2 billion gas pipeline and according to media reports here Unocol has already established an edge over its rival for the 1,300 km-long pipeline which would be up to the Pakistani city of Multan.

But Bridas has reportedly entered into a `deal' with the Talibans thus making it difficult for Unocol to implement the project as a major portion of it would pass through Afghanistan and hence Bridas has to be made a party to the contract.

The fate of the more attractive $2.5 billion oil pipeline, however, is yet to be decided and the latest entrant into this cut-throat competition is Global Data Communication (GDC), another US multinational.

GDC, it seems, has thrown everything behind winning this coveted contract and that is why its president himself flew down to Kabul last week to meet Taliban government minister for industries and investment Mulla Ahmad Jan, according to reports reaching here.

GDC has reportedly made a highly luring offer of $1 billion per annum to the Taliban adminstration as transit fee for the safe passage of oil through Afghanistan.

Jan had conceded during an interview with a local daily that out of the three companies the terms and conditions offered by GDC were most suitable.Apart from offering an annual transit fee the GDC has also proposed to lay down railway track, road and provide electricity along the pipeline and setting up police post at every 20 kms to be manned by Taliban's men.

The taliban minister has said that they are yet to take a final decision in this regard and would prefer the company which comes up with the most attractive offer. The Unocol and Bridas are yet to make an offer for this project.

The project, for which Paksitan and Turkeministan have signed a MoU during the `eco summit' in the second week of last month, envisages laying of the 1,700 km pipeline up to a Pakistani port in the Arabian Sea.

The project also includes setting up of an oil terminal at the port. The idea is to export oil to a third country in the region.

The implementation of this ambitious project, however, entirely depends on the political situation in Afghanistan as the Taliban are yet to bring under their control some of the strategic areas in the central and northern Afghanistan where war was still raging.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.



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