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India, Iran express commitment to gas pipeline

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New Delhi, Feb 23 (UNI) India and Iran today reaffirmed commitment to the multi-billion Dollar Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline even as New Delhi called for exercising restraint, eschewing confrontation and demonstrating flexibility for a solution to Teheran's nuclear programme and its standoff with the IAEA.

The nuclear watchdog is meeting in the beginning of next month to discuss the crucial issue of Iran's nuclear programme. India had voted against Iran at the last meeting of the IAEA.

The two countries also expressed commitment to early ratification of the LNG deal already signed between the two countries.

The fresh developments come barely days before US President George Bush's is to arrive in India. The US opposes the gas pipeline project because of Iran's nuclear programme.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari who arrived here today on a two-day official visit, held talks with Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, National Security Advisor (NSA) M K Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and Rajiv Sikri, Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry.

The two sides had a comprehensive review of bilateral relations and agreed to continue cooperation in all areas of mutual interest and benefit, including in the energy field, an External Affairs Ministry statement said.

''They reaffirmed their commitment to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and an early ratification of the LNG deal already signed between the two countries,'' the statement said.

The two sides also exchanged views on regional developments and international issues.

The Indian side emphasised the need for all sides to eschew confrontation, exercise restraint and demonstrate flexibility to find a solution to the Iran nuclear issue, the statement added.

''The visit is in the context of regular interaction between the two Foreign Ministries aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed had visited Teheran earlier this week to attend the Sixth meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).

UNI RB VD HS2046

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