euro_pipeline_map203.gif Chirac slams Bush over Turkey’s EU bid: Bush publicly said before talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday: “I will remind the people of this good country that you ought to be given a date by the EU for your eventual acceptance into the EU.”

Bush Says: Admit Turkey to EU: “I appreciate so very much the example your country has set on how to be a Muslim country and at the same time a country which embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom,” Bush said.

Giant Caspian Oil Pipeline Opens: Oil is set to begin flowing from the Caspian Sea for the first time after a £2bn pipeline opened on Wednesday. Starting in Azerbaijan, the 1,600km pipeline will pass to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

The pipeline is a strategically important non-Russian, non-Middle Eastern source of oil.

Washington Post | Our Man in Baku: Ilham Aliyev was inaugurated as president of the oil-rich Muslim country of Azerbaijan three months ago after an election condemned by international observers as blatantly fraudulent. When members of the opposition tried to protest, they were brutally beaten by police. There followed a massive, nationwide crackdown… A new report by Human Rights Watch documents numerous cases of torture, including severe beatings, electric shock, and threats of rape against the opposition leaders.

Azerbaijan might look like a good place for President Bush to start implementing his frequently declared policy of “spreading freedom” to the world, [but] the president and his top aides have embraced Mr. Aliyev. The administration waived congressional restrictions to grant Azerbaijan $3 million in military aid and is winding up to give still more. The Pentagon is talking with Azeri officials about the possible use of [former Russian] bases for U.S. operations. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Baku last month to confer with Mr. Aliyev.

The Guardian | A pro-western regime in Kabul should give the US an Afghan route for Caspian oil: The invasion of Afghanistan is certainly a campaign against terrorism, but it may also be a late colonial adventure. Afghanistan is as indispensable to the regional control and transport of oil in central Asia as Egypt was in the Middle East.

Afghanistan has some oil and gas of its own, but not enough to qualify as a major strategic concern. Its northern neighbours, by contrast, contain reserves which could be critical to future global supply. But the oil and gas there is worthless until it is moved. The only route which makes both political and economic sense is through Afghanistan.

America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan. [American oil company] Unocal invited some of the leaders of the Taliban to Houston, where they were royally entertained. The company suggested paying these barbarians 15 cents for every thousand cubic feet of gas it pumped through the land they had conquered. For the first year of Taliban rule, US policy towards the regime appears to have been determined principally by Unocal’s interests.

Afghanistan’s significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from central Asia to the Arabian sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan.