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Tehran to launch gas swap talks with New Delhi, Islamabad

Tehran, May 14, IRNA-Tehran is to start gas swap talks with New Delhi and Islamabad in June 2005, said Deputy Oil Minister for International Affairs Mohammad Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian here on Saturday.

"Upon Indian petroleum minister's visit to Tehran in June 2005 we plan to invite Pakistani petroleum minister to hold trilateral talks in Tehran," said Nejad-Hosseinian in an interview with IRNA in Tehran on Saturday.

Nejad-Hosseinian said, "Indian petroleum minister has not opposed the presence of Pakistani oil minister in the tripartite talks." He expressed hope that Pakistan officials will not have any objections to this either.

The official said the Indian officials have proposed choosing Pakistani route for pumping Iran's gas and receiving the fuel on the Pakistani-Indian border.

He said investigation is underway to build a three-way consensus on security of the supply and non-disruption of the transfer process in Pakistan and its delivery to India.

Nejad-Hosseinian said the Tehran-New Delhi-Islamabad talks on the issue can be promising, hoping that the talks will be held in Tehran.

On the route of the pipeline deal regarding certain beliefs that it should cross the populated regions in Pakistan, Nejad-Hosseinian said the route of the transfer is not related to Iran.

He said necessary studies have been made on the route the pipeline will cross Iranian territory and also on the point for entry of gas from Iran to Pakistani border. He added that it is up to the Pakistanis to chose the route from where that want to receive gas from Iran and up to the Indians from which border point they will let gas enter their territory.

The official said the pricing is the most difficult part of the talks on gas transfer to India, adding that Indian officials have proposed that the gas delivered from Iran should be competitive with coal price in India which is the lowest in its kind in the country.

He said Tehran will not be influenced by such pressures.

He added that export of gas to India and Pakistan is not the only option for export of Iran's gas and there are many other ways for exports.

The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project is of political significance for the three sides, said Nejad-Hosseinian, hoping that the three sides will reach agreement in the field.

Gas market has undergone changes since about one year ago, he added.

On likely withdrawal of India from the project under the US pressure, the official said in a meeting recently, Indian petroleum minister stressed no US pressure had been at work.

India has shown throughout history and in experience that it is an independent state, is not influenced by political and international pressures and decides about its economic interests, said the official.

Nejad-Hosseinian said due to political problems, finalization of the gas exports deals is not much within Iran's power and political pressures of the US and some states overshadow Tehran's activities.

He said efforts are underway to ensure the gas swap talks go on with adequate speed.

The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline deal is suspended for 10 to 12 years and Tehran was not responsible for the issue, he noted.

Nejad-Hosseinian said the chance has arisen for implementation of the project but it is not completely for sure. The possibility of the deal's finalization does not prevent Iran from holding talks for export of gas to other parts, he added.

Asked about the possibility of agreement between Iran and Pakistan on the gas exports, Nejad-Hosseinian said the three-way pipeline project is fully aimed at making it more economical and least costly.

Negotiations to build the 4.5 billion dollar gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan began in 1994 but little headway was made because of tensions between Pakistan and India, which have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947 from Britain.

But against a backdrop of easing tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer said in February he had won cabinet approval for resuming talks on the 2,600-kilometer (1,612 mile) overland pipeline.

Aiyer also said he would visit Islamabad this month to discuss the logistics of the pipeline linking Iran's South Pars gas field to India via southwest Pakistan.

... Payvand News - 5/15/05 ... --

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