Iran, Pak willing to involve India in IPI project

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Dubai, Sep 30: Iran and Pakistan have expressed their desire to take India onboard the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, hoping to resolve outstanding issues soon through negotiations.

Representatives of the two countries, who met in Tehran to finalise a deal on the 7.4 billion dollar pipeline, announced yesterday that they have agreed to sign a draft agreement and a letter of understanding by the end of October, Irna reported.

''Both countries have reached a consensus on all conditions of the deal, and the draft agreement is ready to be signed by lawyers and experts from different technical, financial and commercial sectors,'' Iranian Oil Minister's special representative Hojjatollah Ghanimifard said.

Reacting to India's absence from the negotiations, the Iranian official said, ''Iran welcomes India whenever it joins us in the peace pipeline project.'' Energy Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Mukhtar Ahmed said the differences over transit fee with India would be resolved soon.

''We hope to reach an agreement in the near future and Indian and Pakistani delegations will meet soon to resolve the transit fee issue,'' Mr Ahmed said.

The announcement of the deal between Tehran and Islamabad came after two days of official-level talks which were preceded by three days of negotiations at the experts' level.

The Pakistani side was led by Petroleum Secretary Farrukh Qayyum.

''According to the negotiations, the Pakistani side is to submit the draft agreement to us next week, and we will declare our views on it in a week,'' Mr Ghanimifard said.

He noted that the last round of discussions will be held in Pakistan in mid-October, adding that the two sides will explore the draft agreement not to be contrary with the MoU already signed by the leaders of the countries parties to the project.

According to the initial agreements in 1990, the project was to be carried out by Tehran, Islamabad and New Delhi to transfer Iranian natural gas to India through Pakistan.

The 2,600 km pipeline would carry 60 and 90 million cubic meters of gas a day to Pakistan and India respectively.

Mr Qayyum said, ''We have discussed in depth all the outstanding issues, including the technical, legal, commercial and financial aspects of the agreement.'' He said the joint text of the document would be signed by the heads of state of the two countries after the signing date was agreed upon through mutual consultation.

Mr Ahmed said a consensus has been reached on all aspects of the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA).

''We have invited the Iranian side to visit Islamabad from October 15-19 so we can have a look at the final draft and finalise the document,'' he said.

Referring to the Inter-Governmental Agreement, which will support GSPA, he said it would felicitate the implementation of the tri-nation pipeline project.

''It is a new beginning which will lead to enhance energy cooperation providing fresh confidence to look for other opportunities to work together for the mutual benefit of the two countries,'' Mr Ahmed said.

UNI

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