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US still opposes Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline

While US recognizes the energy needs of India and Pak, they are concerned over Iran's N-activities and terrorism.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 12:35 IST

The White House said on Tuesday it still opposes a proposed natural gas pipeline linking energy-rich Iran with India, clarifying remarks by President George W Bush that seemed to soften US opposition to the project.

Bush had seemed to suggest a shift in policy when he said during a visit to Pakistan on Friday that "our beef with Iran is not the pipeline, our beef with Iran is the fact that they want to develop a nuclear weapon."

India and Iran have been discussing a $7 billion natural gas pipeline that would run through Pakistan.

Iran has the second-largest natural gas reserves in the world behind Russia - about 940 trillion cubic feet. Growing Asian economies, including India and Pakistan, are scrambling to find energy sources to feed industrial expansion.

"As we stated before, the US government does not support the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline," said White House National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones.

Jones said while the United States recognized the growing energy needs of India and Pakistan, "we have repeatedly expressed concerns about international participation in energy projects with Iran."

This concern is over "Iran's nuclear activities, support for terrorists, and (its) atrocious human rights record," Jones said.

India has to tread a tightrope in pipeline talks, trying to satisfy its appetite for hydrocarbons while not upsetting Washington. It faces a natural gas deficit of 200 million cubic meters a day in 20 years.

India reached a landmark civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the United States during a visit by Bush last week intended to boost the country's nuclear power capacity as a way to meet soaring energy needs.

Pakistan's Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, on Tuesday said the country would proceed with the pipeline project regardless of India's participation.

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 11:29 IST