A new pipeline to carry oil from the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan to China has been formally opened.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, pushed the button on a console to start the pumping of Kazakh oil to energy-hungry western China.
This is the first major export pipeline from the landlocked Central Asian republic which does not cross Russian territory.
Beijing, which is keen to find new energy sources, has been cultivating economic ties with Central Asia.
China has bought oilfields in Kazakhstan and has partly financed the pipeline project.
Work began last year on the almost 1,000 kilometre long pipeline.
It has cost 672 million euros and initially will carry 210,000 barrels per day of Kayakh and Russian oil to China.
The pipeline is a major step in Beijing’s effort to reduce its reliance on Middle East energy supplies.
It will eventually be connected to another pipe from the Caspian region in west Kazakhstan, where a huge new oilfield is being developed.
The country’s oil output is expected to triple to around 3.5 million barrels a day by 2015.
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