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Officials in Azerbaijan inaugurated the first section of the 1,760-kilometer Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan pipeline on Wednesday that will bring Caspian Sea oil to Western markets. The pipeline, with a capacity of 1 million barrels a day, is the first direct oil link between the landlocked Caspian - thought to contain the world's third-largest oil and gas reserves - and the Mediterranean. The Bush Administration sees the pipeline as a significant step toward reducing the West's dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and regional leaders hope it will help solve economic and social problems in the troubled Caucuses region. Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey look to earn substantial revenue through transit fees and royalties. British Petroleum led the consortium that developed the $3.2 billion project.

Ford Motor Co. has agreed to help struggling auto parts supplier Visteon Corp., a former Ford subsidiary, by temporarily taking over 24 of its facilities in the US and Mexico, the automaker said Wednesday. A temporary business entity will be established in order to sell the facilities over time. Ford accounts for about 70 percent of Visteon's business. Visteon, which is based in Township, Mich., reported a loss of $188 million for the January-March period, compared with net income of $20 million a year ago.

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In news from the airlines industry:

• Northwest Airlines is seeking to cut its workforce of mechanics by more than half and reduce base pay for the remaining positions by 25 percent, according to the union, which bases the figures on written proposals it's received from the fourth-largest US airline. Savings from the pay cuts alone would total $176 million, according to the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association.

• Members of the largest union at Boeing Co.'s commercial aircraft division in Wichita, Kan., on Tuesday rejected a labor agreement that the plant's proposed buyer, Onex Corp., had called vital to the acquisition. The union declined to say how many of several thousand members at the plant voted. In a statement, Onex managing director Nigel Wright said he was "disappointed" by the vote and said the company is reviewing its options. The Toronto investment firm had said previously it would walk away from the deal if the union rejected the agreement.


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