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Ashgabat, Islamabad, New Dehli To Sign Trans-Afghan Pipeline Deal

Turkmen, Indian, and Pakistani officials are expected to sign a long-awaited agreement to supply Turkmen natural gas to Pakistan and India through an ambitious U.S.-backed trans-Afghan pipeline known as TAPI.

Western news agencies report that the agreement is expected to be signed on May 23 at an international gas conference in the Turkmen Caspian Sea resort of Avaza.

The idea of the $7.6 billion pipeline was first raised in the mid-1990s, but construction has yet to begin.

Turkmen officials have said the proposed 1,735-kilometer pipeline could carry 33 billion cubic meters a year.

Last week, the Indian government approved a deal to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan via the pipeline.

The pipeline is likely to be operational by 2016, supporters say, if the security situation in Afghanistan is stable.