Iran says ready to conclude gas agreement with Pakistan
( RIA Novosti ) - Iran is ready to sign a bilateral agreement with Pakistan to build a gas pipeline, despite one of the project partners' absence, acting Iranian Petroleum Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said Thursday.
In July, Iran, Pakistan and India agreed a price for the natural gas to be pumped along the 2,300 km Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, which is estimated to cost $7.5 billion, the first deliveries are expected in 2011 with Pakistan and India sharing the gas equally. The annual throughput capacity is estimated at 21.1 billion cu m.
"Talks with Pakistan on the gas pipeline started two days ago, and as the Indian side has not resolved its difficulties yet, we will sign this agreement with Pakistan," Nozari told journalists. "We are moving forward in our agreements with Pakistan, and if India joins this project we will sign a trilateral agreement."
The second round of Iranian-Pakistani talks at the expert level started in Tehran Monday.
The talks focused on discussing exports of Iranian gas to Pakistan and India, but the absence of Indian experts put the likelihood of reaching a three-party agreement in question. In August India's Ambassador to Russia, Kanwal Sibal said that India and Pakistan were still in dispute over pricing and transit duties.
The first round of talks took place in Pakistan August 30, without India's participation either. Then India explained its absence by being unready for consultations.
India and Pakistan are under pressure from the U.S. not to do business with Iran in the energy sector. But the parties to the project have repeatedly stated their resolve to move forward with the key project, regardless of Washington's opposition.