India, Pakistan keen on going ahead with gas pipeline

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New Delhi, Feb 6 (UNI) India and Pakistan are expected to iron out differences, like transit fee, coming in the way of the much-delayed tri-nation seven billion dollar gas pipeline with a top level delegation led by Petroleum Minister Murli Deora expected to visit Islamabad soon.

''I can leave for Pakistan tomorrow itself...'' Mr Deora told reporters here.

At a recent meeting in London, Pakistan Petroleum Minister Ahsan Ullah Khan had invited his Indian counterpart to visit the country to carry on with bi-lateral talks.

Mr Deora, however, declined to put a timeline on his visit as Pakistan still grapples with political uncertainty in the runup to its election on February 18.

He said a final shape on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will be given soon, even as it looks to resolve all outstanding differences in the deal.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference here Mr Deora said, ''With Pakistan, the transit fee issue remains and I met the Pakistan Petroleum Minister in London and he expressed hope on resolving the situation.'' Though New Delhi and Islamabad have reached an understanding on the transportation tariff payable to Pakistan, the two nations have not yet arrived at any agreement on payment of a separate transit fee to Pakistan for using its territory.

Mr Deora said that even with Iran certain issues remained to be addressed and hoped for an early breakthrough.

Three-fourth of the pipeline will be passing through Pakistan which will also use the conduit for providing gas to its consumers.

The pipeline is to be laid in the three nations separately. Iran would lay a 1,100-km pipeline from the Persian Gulf to the Iran-Pakistan border, while Pakistan would lay a 1,035 km from its border with Iran to the Indian border. The project after completion is expected meet the energy demands of gas starved India and Pakistan from Iran's massive gas fields.

UNI PBB/RT BJR HS1837

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