Pranab in Iran : To discuss IPI issue, attend JCM

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New Delhi, Nov 1 (UNI) India will take up with Iran tomorrow the issue of the 7.4 billion US dollar Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project that has been hanging fire for sometime now, at the talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Iranian leaders in Tehran, officials said here today.

The External Affairs Minister arrived in Tehran last night to co-Chair the Iran-India Joint Comission Meeting (JCM) today and discuss with Iranian leaders various issues of bilateral, regional and international interest.

The visit is also seen as an attempt to smoothen Iran's ruffled plummage over the recent conclusion of the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement.

He will have talks with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottakki and is likely to meet President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

The two sides will discuss trade and investment issues besides strengthening of cooperation in energy, science and technology and banking sectors.

The IPI issue will be high on agenda of talks to remove the deadlock over pricing and other matters.

Tehran recently warned that the IPI could become IPC, indicating that China could replace India in the trilateral deal. Tehran said India could join later whenever it wanted.

The two Ministers will meet tomorrow at a panel discussion on the theme 'Relations Between Iran, India, its Challenges and opportunities,' the officials said.

They will also discuss strengthening of political, economic and cultural ties, trade and transportation, information technology and consular issues, the officials added.

Iran is reportedly miffed since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last month that India was not in favour of another nuclear State coming up in its neighbourhood.

The Prime Minister said on September 29 at Marseille (France) after the Third India-EU Summit that India did not favour Iran's nuclear ambitions although New Delhi recognised Tehran's right to nuclear quest for peaceful purposes.

''The pipeline issue is likely to dominate the discussions between Mr Mukherjee and the Iranian leaders,'' the official said.

Economic and trade issues are also likely to be the focus in the event of the economic meltdown plaguing the US and Europe, the officials added.

UNI RB PK CS1804

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