The Rush For Caspian Oil

Clinton started late, but the U.S. is gaining in the Great Game in central Asia

Washington put on quite a show last week for an improbable personage: Turkmenbashi, a plump, silver-haired strongman from an obscure country in central Asia who would normally rank far down the pomp-and-protocol chart.

But the title, which means "head of all Turkmen," belongs to one Saparmurat Niyazov, President of Turkmenistan, a parched former Soviet republic that happens to sit atop immense oil deposits and the fourth largest natural-gas reserves in the world. So last week Niyazov got the imperial treatment from the Clinton Administration and a host of U.S. businessmen eager to start exploiting those riches in earnest.

Niyazov was put...

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