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India's Petroleum Minister denies differences over Iran-India pipeline

New Delhi, July 26, IRNA-Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar today denied any differences within the government on the 7.4 billion US dollar Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and said New Delhi was going ahead with the project as scheduled.

He told PTI that he is exactly at the same wave length as the Prime Minister and that the decision of going ahead with the pipeline is in accordance with his direction.

"I met Prime Minister for one hour on Sunday and again on Monday.

The message I got was absolutely clear, there is no going back. A schedule has been laid out and we are going by it.

"Technical, commercial, financial and legal arrangements besides involvement of international consortia of bankers and global firms for laying and operating the pipeline would make the pipeline safe and secure," Aiyar said.

There are apprehensions that any pipeline passing through Pakistan runs the risk of being sabotaged and the project itself might be held hostage for political gains. There are also apprehensions that given the US sanctions against Iran, international bankers may refrain from funding the project.

"Schedule of meetings (between India and Iran, India and Pakistan) has been laid down till the end of December and they are being maintained.

"Two separate technical groups between India and Pakistan as well as India and Iran are conceptualizing the project structure so as to make it safe and secure and address all risks," Aiyar said asserting that the dialogue would continue.

Earlier this month, India and pakistan decided to appoint separate financial consultants to work out a project structure for the much- delayed project to take off by early next year.

... Payvand News - 7/26/05 ... --

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