Who needs Afghanistan (for oil pipelines…

Who needs Afghanistan (for oil pipelines)?

The leaders of China and three Central Asian nations gathered Sunday in Turkmenistan ahead of a ceremony inaugurating natural gas deliveries from the energy-rich region to China.

The pipeline culminates Chinese efforts to secure energy supplies for its fast-growing economy. The route also will enable gas producers in the region to diversify their exports away from Russia, which has exercised a virtual stranglehold over Central Asian energy supplies since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“This is a significant project of cooperation between two nations that will benefit all countries in the region,” Chinese leader Hu Jintao told reporters in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat.

“All countries in the region” except Afghanistan.