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Head of state energy company Turkmengaz Sahatmurad Mamedov, left, and Head of Pakistan’s Inter State Gas System Mobin Saulat sign documents for construction of a 1,800-kilometer gas pipeline at a signing ceremony in Avaza, Turkmenistan, Wednesday, May 23, 2012.—AP Photo

MOSCOW: Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov sacked his oil and gas minister, citing his poor performance on state television on Friday, just two days after the Central Asian nation agreed landmark deals to supply natural gas to Pakistan and India.

The deals agreed on Wednesday offer major economic benefits but depend on building and defending a US-backed pipeline across violence-wracked Afghanistan, including a 735-km leg through the provinces of Herat and Kandahar.

A former deputy head of Turkmenistan’s state gas company Turkmengaz, Kakageldy Abdullaev, was named acting oil and gas minister to replace Bayramgeldy Nedirov, who had held his post since August 2008.

Turkmenistan, which holds the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas, produced 66 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the fuel in 2011, an official said on Thursday, in a rare disclosure of such data in the secretive Central Asian nation.

Berdymukhamedov, who wields virtually unlimited powers and is popularly known as Arkadag (The Patron), usually personally informs the nation of 5.5 million of its economic performance.

“Nedirov did not carry out orders, which inflicted damage on the state economy. Due to this, I am letting him go,” Berdymukhamedov was shown on state television as saying.

BP data show that Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia each hold 4.3 per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves. Only Russia, Iran and Qatar have larger shares.

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