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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Turkmens, Saudis Talk Energy

The leader of Turkmenistan, the biggest natural gas producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia, met with businessmen during a four-day trip to Saudi Arabia to seek investment in his country's energy industry.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov told Saudi executives in Riyadh on Sunday that Turkmenistan had "extremely rich" onshore and offshore oil and gas fields and asked them to invest in the Central Asian nation, the state-run newspaper Turkmenistan said on its web site.

He also invited Saudi businessmen to participate in exploring for resources and upgrading the country's oil refineries.

The trip, which was to end Monday, is the Turkmen leader's first foreign visit since being elected in February.

Berdymukhammedov last month called for the development of the Turkmen part of the oil and gas-rich Caspian Sea and for greater foreign involvement in the country's energy industry.

Turkmenistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, plans to boost oil output by 15 percent to 10.4 million tons (76.2 million barrels) this year. It also plans to raise gas production by 20 percent to 80 billion cubic meters, enough to supply Italy, Europe's third-largest gas consumer.

Berdymukhammedov was elected president after the death last year of Turkmenistan's president for life, Saparmurat Niyazov.