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Following the Path of the Caspian Oil Pipeline

The first section of an 1,100-mile oil pipeline officially opened Tuesday in Azerbaijan. It will eventually carry oil from the Caspian Sea through Georgia and on to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

The Bush administration has supported the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan project (BTC), headed by BP, as a way to reduce dependence on oil from the Middle East, and on existing Russian pipelines.

The Caspian oil fields are believed to hold the world's third-largest reserves. Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan all claim shares of the oil there.

Thomas Goltz writes about the Trans-Caucasus region. In 2002, he traveled the route of the pipeline by motorcycle. He explains where the pipeline goes, how it works, and its potential effect on the world oil market.

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As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.