Presidents Reaffirm Pipeline Plans, Invitation to Bolivia

Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina have reaffirmed their intention to build jointly a 10,000-kilometer natural gas pipeline stretching across South America and to invite Bolivia to join the project, according to local press reports.

The presidents of the three countries--Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Argentina's Nestor Kirchner, and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva--met in Sao Paulo to discuss the project and commercial integration.

The pipeline is projected to carry as much as 150 million cubic meters a day of Venezuelan gas, and construction costs are estimated at US$25 billion, with the first phase set to begin operations in 2009, according to local media.

The idea is to link the largest natural gas reserves in South America, which are in Venezuela and Bolivia, to build a natural gas ring.

"Together Venezuela and Bolivia account for 80% of the continent's gas reserves," Chavez was quoted as saying.

The presidents also reaffirmed that a draft project will be ready in June, and discussions are taking place to decide on the pipeline route.

The pipeline would be financed by governments, state-owned companies, and private companies, Brazilian online news service Agencia Carta Maior quoted Chavez as saying.

Chavez stressed political interest in the project, saying that one of the aims is to create jobs and to unite the continent, Agencia Carta Maior reported.

"If we considered only the economics of the project and profits, we would not be here discussing this," Chavez said. "We would be building a pipeline to take gas to North America."

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