Iran Growing Impatient with India over Gas Pipeline

Other News Materials 18 September 2007 03:00 (UTC +04:00)

( Fars News Agency)- Iran expressed impatience with India over the finalizing of a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline deal via Pakistan, warning that it could go ahead with Pakistan alone if India procrastinated.

Caretaker Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said New Delhi and Islamabad were still in discussions over the payment of transit fees by India to Pakistan for Iranian gas from the "peace pipeline".

He said Pakistani officials were certain to come to Iran next week for talks to finalize the project but the attendance of Indian representatives was still unconfirmed.

"Our preference is to have a tripartite negotiation. (But) the trend is moving faster with the Pakistanis," Nozari told reporters.

"The Pakistanis and Indians are having discussions on the transit fees. If we believe that a serious delay has occurred with the Indians, we will go ahead with the Pakistanis."

Nozari did not elaborate over whether this could involve Iran signing the finalization for the deal with Pakistan alone.

The Iranian envoy to the pipeline project, Hojatollah Ghanimifar said, "We have invited the Indians for these negotiations but so far their presence is not definite."

Discussions on the 7.4-billion-dollar project started in 1994, but have been held up by technical and commercial issues.

There have also been strong objections to the pipeline from the United States - a key friend of Pakistan and an ever closer ally of India - which is at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear program.

The 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) pipeline from Iran's giant South Pars gas field will initially carry around 60 million standard cubic meters per day of gas.

India, which imports more than 70 percent of its energy needs, has been racing to secure new supplies of oil and gas from abroad besides ramping up production from domestic sources to sustain its scorching economic growth.

Pakistan will itself receive gas as well as transporting India's share. India will pay Pakistan for the cost of shipping its share of the gas to the Indian border.

Iran has the world's second largest gas reserves after Russia.