Turkmen Pipeline Deal Seen Thursday

Russia secured a deal to start construction of a new natural gas pipeline linking it to the Caspian Sea countries of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and visiting Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko agreed to sign a three-way agreement with Kazakhstan on Thursday in Moscow, the Turkmen government said in a statement Tuesday.

President Vladimir Putin later spoke by telephone with Berdymukhammedov and the leaders "expressed satisfaction'' with progress on the Caspian project, the Kremlin press service said, Itar-Tass reported.

The agreement comes after Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov failed to reach a deal on starting construction of the pipeline during a visit to Turkmenistan in November.