The political rhetoric is heating up over Caspian oil. Vladimir Shumeyko, chairman of the Russian parliament's upper house, says Azerbaijan must kick Western companies, including Amoco, Pennzoil, McDermott, and Exxon, out of a $7.5 billion consortium to develop fields in the Caspian Sea. "The oil consortium serves the interests of the U.S.," he said.

Russian talk is getting tougher because a decision on pipeline routes is nearing. The Kremlin badly wants all pipelines to pass through Russia, so it can control what could become one of the world's most significant oil pools.

But the independent republics are showing interest in a route through Armenia to Turkey being pushed by entrepreneur Roger Tamraz.

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