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India, Iran stress need for closer ties

The two leaders stressed the need to strengthen bilateral ties, particularly in the energy sector.
None | By Agence France-Presse, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 25, 2006 10:50 PM IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Iranian Vice President Rahim Mashaee on Saturday held talks in New Delhi.

The two leaders stressed the need to strengthen bilateral ties, particularly in the energy sector.

"They agreed on the need for an early meeting of the India-Iran Joint Commission," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry was referring to a special committee set up to explore ways to expand bilateral ties.

"The two leaders emphasised the importance they attach to the civilisation ties between the two countries and need for further strengthening bilateral cooperation, particularly in the energy sector," it said.

Energy-hungry India is in negotiations with Iran for the supply of gas via pipeline that would run through Pakistan, with a next round of talks scheduled for late April.

India plans to initially draw 60 million cubic metres (2.11 billion cubic feet) of gas from the pipeline and increase the quantity to 90 million cubic metres (3.17 billion cubic feet) within two to three years.

Despite initial opposition, US President George W Bush said during a visit to India this month that he had no objections to New Delhi buying gas from a country that Washington accuses of supporting terrorism and attempting to make a nuclear bomb.

Singh and Mashaee, who is also Chairman of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, agreed to promote the common cultural heritage of the two countries, the foreign ministry said.

Saturday's meeting is the first high-profile talks between leaders of the two countries since India in February voted with 26 other nations to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme.

Singh earlier this month urged the international community to avoid a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear programme, saying it could worsen tensions in the region.

"We remain hopeful that a solution acceptable to all sides will be found, we do not favour confrontation," Singh told Parliament.

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