Colombia's government plans to deploy 5,000 soldiers to protect the Bicentennial Pipeline, a 960-kilometer (600-mile) conduit currently under construction.

Mines and Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas made the announcement in Arauca - capital of the like-named northeastern province bordering Venezuela - during a visit to the massive project of state-controlled oil firm Ecopetrol.

"We're going to create eight new battalions with 5,000 men and Ecopetrol will be in charge of arranging all the logistics so our security forces have dignified living conditions," Cardenas said.

He added that the pipeline, which will run from oil fields in the northeastern province of Casanare to the Caribbean port of Coveñas and be the country's longest, "will allow us to benefit from the petroleum wealth."

The minister said numerous "enemies" threaten the project but that "we're going to defeat them" because the legitimacy of the Colombian state is at stake.

"We're not going to be intimidated by terrorists who are trying to sabotage (the pipeline) and who are enemies of these projects," Cardenas said, referring to leftist guerrillas who have fought a decades-old armed struggle against a succession of Colombian governments.

He said he has worked in tandem with army commander Gen. Sergio Mantilla to review the security situation in the region so that "all the local workers linked to this project will have the necessary guarantees and there are no setbacks or delays."

Once in operation, the pipeline will transport 125,000 barrels per day.

Ecopetrol announced in August 2010 that the project would cost roughly $4.2 billion and that construction should be fully completed by the end of this year. EFE