CASPIAN SEA OIL IS ABOUT to become a byword for tensions between Russia and the West. On 9 October, the steering committee managing the $7.5 billion Caspian Sea oil "deal of the century" between the Azerbaijani government and a consortium of 10 Western oil companies finally announced the initial export routes for Azerbaijan's oil. It was agreed in principle that, beginning in the last quarter of 1996, 4 million to 5 million metric tons per year of oil extracted from the Caspian Chirag field (the first of three oil fields to be exploited) will be exported simultaneously through two Black Sea ports, one in Russia (Novo-rossiisk) and another in Georgia (probably Supsa).

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