* Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Kyrgyzstan
* Kyrgyz PM says wants pipeline to China to cross Kyrgyzstan
* China to lend $136 mln for road construction
* Also eyes power, rail projects
By Olga Dzyubenko
BISHKEK, Dec 4 Kyrgyzstan aims to join a natural
gas pipeline network linking Central Asia with China in order to
reduce its reliance on its immediate neighbours for energy and
to profit from transit fees.
Kyrgyzstan's government has agreed with Beijing to discuss
the country's inclusion in the 2,000-km (1,250-mile) pipeline
network, launched in 2009, which pumps Turkmen gas to China
through the former Soviet states of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
"Kyrgyzstan is very interested in having a fourth spur of
the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline pass through our territory,"
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev said on Tuesday
during a visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
He said Kyrgyzstan, which currently imports most its gas
from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, hoped to realise such a plan
"within the next three to four years."
The China-bound pipeline originates in Turkmenistan, which
holds the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves. Supplies
along the route this year are forecast to reach around 9 billion
cubic metres (bcm).
State-run China National Petroleum Corp has said it plans
eventually to increase the pipeline's annual capacity to 60 bcm.
Uzbekistan has started pumping small volumes along the route
this year and Kazakhstan also plans to send its gas eastward.
China is extending its economic influence across its long,
mountainous border with Kyrgyzstan as a counterbalance to U.S.
and Russian influence in the impoverished Central Asian nation
of 5.5 million people.
The United States uses an air base in Kyrgyzstan to ferry
troops fighting in Afghanistan. Former imperial master Russia
also has a military air base in the country and has signed deals
to extend its military and energy footprint.
During Wen's visit to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and China also
discussed the construction of a railroad to Uzbekistan and a new
hydroelectric power cascade, as well as possible investment in a
In order to attract investment in mining and reduce
dependence on Centerra Gold's Kumtor mine, which
contributed 12 percent of GDP last year, Kyrgyzstan will also
make geological data available to potential Chinese investors.
Speaking after the meeting, Altynbek Muraliyev, head of the
Kyrgyz government's international cooperation department, said
China had also agreed to lend $136 million on favourable terms
for construction of a road to the Kyrgyz border with Tajikistan.
(Writing by Robin Paxton; editing by James Jukwey)