India delaying pipeline deal: Iran

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Dubai, Sep 17: Iran has warned India that it would finalise the multi-million dollar trination gas pipeline deal with Pakistan alone if New Delhi further delays the tri-partite negotiations.

Iran Caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said New Delhi and Islamabad were still holding discussions over the payment of transit fees by India to Pakistan for Iranian gas from the ''peace pipeline'', reports in the gulf media said.

He said Pakistani officials would be visiting Iran next week for talks about finalising the project but the attendance of Indian representatives still remained unconfirmed.

''Our preference is to have a tri-partite negotiation.'' But the trend was moving faster with the Pakistanis, Mr Nozari added.

''The Pakistanis and Indians are having discussions on the transit fees. If we believe that a serious delay has occurred with the Indians, we will go ahead with the Pakistanis.'' Iranian envoy Hojatollah Ghanimifar said, according to state media, ''Indians were invited for the negotiations but so far their presence is not definite.'' Discussions on the 7.4 billion-dollar project started in 1994, but have been held up by technical and commercial issues.

Even the United States had registered strong objections against the project.

Gulf daily news reported yesterday that the 2,600-km pipeline from Iran's giant South Pars gas field would initially carry around 60 million standard cubic mt per day of gas.

India currently imports more than 70pc of its energy needs from other countries besides ramping up production from domestic sources to sustain its increasing economic growth.

Pakistan would receive gas as well as transporting India's share.

India would pay Pakistan for the cost of shipping its share of the gas to the Indian border.

Iran has been the world's second largest gas reserves after Russia but has remained a relatively minor player in the global export market.

UNI

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