Iran-India gas pipeline to be built from 2007: Officials
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Iran-India gas pipeline to be built from 2007: Officials

Peace talks between India, Pak revived hopes for the pipeline 2 years ago but the project faces opposition from US.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2005 19:03 IST

Pakistan and India hope to start building a $7 billion gas pipeline from Iran to South Asia by 2007 despite objections from the United States, top officials from both countries said on Saturday.

"We have made significant progress. We hope to complete the project by 2010," Pakistan's Petroleum Secretary Ahmad Waqar told reporters after bilateral talks with officials from India's oil ministry in New Delhi.

The proposal to build the pipeline has been on the drawing board for years but uneasy relations between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India prevented any progress.

Indian officials are also concerned the project would take gas across volatile areas of Pakistan where other pipelines have been attacked in the past.

Peace talks between India and Pakistan revived hopes for the pipeline two years ago but the project faces opposition from the United States, which accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms, funding anti-Israeli militias and stirring militant attacks against US forces in Iraq.

Nicholas Burns, a top official of the US State Department, said last month India had assured the United States that any plans to sign energy deals with Iran were "years away" and existed only in the hypothetical realm.

But officials said talks to build the pipeline were progressing well.

"We shall go ahead," Waqar said when asked to comment on US objections to the project.

His Indian counterpart, Petroleum Secretary SC Tripathi, said talks had gained momentum.

"We have made significant progress. We are now talking about details of the project," he said.

He said the pipeline would initially bring 90 million cubic metres a day of gas, a third of it for Pakistan. The volume would be raised to 150 million cubic metres in 3-4 years.

Oil ministers from both countries plan to meet in New Delhi in February to review progress in the project, a joint press statement said.

India, Pakistan and Iran would also discuss the project at another meeting in Tehran, also in February, it added.

India, which imports 70 per cent of the oil it consumes, is in talks to build gas pipelines from Myanmar, Iran and Turkmenistan to meet the growing energy needs of its expanding economy.

First Published: Dec 18, 2005 10:40 IST