Bolivia to Join Continental Pipeline Project

Bolivia will join the Gasoducto del Sur natural gas pipeline that would run from Venezuela through Brazil and on to Argentina to increase natural gas supplies on the continent, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez announced on Thursday after a meeting of the four countries' leaders in the Argentine border town of Puerto Iguazu.

"We handed [Bolivia's President] Evo Morales a letter inviting Bolivia to join the project and the invitation has been accepted," Chavez said during a televised press conference.

The pipeline would run some 8,000-10,000km and is initially budgeted at some US$25bn.

Preliminary feasibility studies are underway and an initial outline of the project should be concluded in June. Chavez said the next meeting, which will include Bolivia, will be in Venezuela.

"Now we can speed the project up again," he said. "The pipeline will supply gas to all the countries of South American continent for a century."

Chavez praised Morales's May 1 decision to nationalize hydrocarbons in Bolivia, saying it was the way to strengthen integration in South America.

"We have no other alternative to integration to face a globalized world," he said.

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