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Indian Oil Minister: Iran, india's top priority as gas provider

New Delhi, April 14, IRNA-India's Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said in a meeting with IRI Ambassador to New Delhi Siavosh Zargar Ya'qoubi here Wednesday evening, "India's top priority for acquiring the natural gas its needs is Iran."

The Indian gas minister emphasized during the meeting that India is not only agreed with constructing the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, but also favors speeding up the process of construction.

Aiyar said that India views that pipeline as its topmost priority for providing energy, due to several reasons, despite certain outside objections.

Ambassador Ya'qoubi, too, during the meeting, surveyed the present level of two countries' cooperation in energy field.

He appreciated the Indian oil minister's positive approach towards the strategic Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline that he said would be "a long stride in boosting bilateral economic ties," once completed.

The multi-billion dollar 2,700+ KM Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline's project entered a new phase as of almost a year ago with renewed more serious talks among the three countries' officials and thanks to lowering tension in India-Pakistan relations during the past few months.

The Indian oil minister is scheduled to visit Pakistan in May, and Iran in June to finalize the details of the mammoth project with the two countries' oil officials.

Asian energy analysts have named the pipeline "The Peace Pipeline" and believe it would not only change the economic and political equations in west Asia, but also boost security and stability in that sensitive strategic region.

Under the plan, natural gas would be transferred from southern Iran via a 1,600 km pipeline to Pakistan and on to India through a 1,000km line at the estimated cost of $3.5bn.

Pakistan has also extended invitation to Iranian oil minister for bilateral visit to have further discussion on the project, which has assumed international importance, official and diplomatic sources said.

Pakistan in early March hinted at deal about the multi billion-dollar gas pipeline project in mid-March.

Aziz discussed the project with Iranian leadership during his recent visit to Tehran.

Indian central cabinet allowed its Petroleum Ministry in early February to hold talks with Pakistan to secure gas supplies for India through pipelines.

India had been concerned over the security of the proposed gas pipeline through Pakistan, an idea the three countries have been pursuing for the past several years without tangible success.

They have been pursuing the pipeline since 1996, but tension over Kashmir has blocked progress.

Pakistan would have access to the gas, and earn an estimated US$600 million a year in transit fees.

The proposed 2,700+ kilometer pipeline would save India around US$300 million a year in energy costs, according to initial estimates.

... Payvand News - 4/14/05 ... --

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