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Turkmenistan says oil exports to China begin in 2009

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ASHKHABAD, July 13 (RIA Novosti) - Turkmenistan's president said Friday his country would begin exporting oil to China in 2009.

"We will start selling oil to China in 2009," Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said on the eve of his official visit to the energy-hungry Asian country next week.

"We hope it [oil export] will strengthen our economy," the Turkmen leader said.

The energy-rich ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia holds the world's fifth-largest natural gas reserves and substantial oil resources.

The country is planning to produce 10.4 million metric tons (some 78 million barrels) of oil in 2007, Turkmen media reported in March.

Driven by a blossoming demand for energy, the Chinese government has made securing access to the largely untapped reserves of oil and natural gas in Central Asia a cornerstone of its economic policy for the next two decades.

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