Vote or no vote: India, Iran still friends
Iranian oil minister claimed that the bilateral LNG deal signed in June last year was not binding upon his country.india Updated: May 03, 2006 10:01 IST
Iran claims India's vote against it at the IAEA has not affected the friendly ties between the two countries. Then it puts conditions on its energy deals with India -- and again claims these have nothing to do with the vote.
On Tuesday, Iranian deputy oil and international affairs minister Mohammad Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian told reporters that the bilateral liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal signed in June last year was not binding upon his country as it has not been ratified yet by Iran's Supreme Economic Council. The reason: the council wanted "some key changes" in the five-million-tonnes per annum deal.
The minister did not specify the changes. But India's Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, by his side, said: "Let us be honest. Pricing of LNG is the issue." Officials said India has been insisting on LNG being supplied at the price it was contracted in June 2005 but Tehran wants a higher price. They said issues like fixing of prices cannot be worked after a deal has been signed.
The Iranian minister said, "There are differences. There is a difference in the interpretation to the effectiveness of the contract. We feel it needs ratification from higher authorities and not as India believes that the contract is already binding."
The Iranian minister also had a condition on the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. Though he said that India was still very much a part of the $7-billion project, it has to sign a deal by July failing which Iran will pursue bilateral exports to Pakistan.
Hosseinian, however, refused to admit that the hardening of Iran's stand had anything to do with India's IAEA vote. He said, "These (LNG deal and gas pipeline) are not a political issue."
"India is a good friend and we expect from India what we expect from good friends," he said.
He was confident that the UN would not impose sanctions on oil and gas industry as it could result in global oil prices going up. "We don't use oil as a weapon," he said.
Tehran, sources said, was using the LNG deal to "punish" India for voting against its nuclear programme at the IAEA. It was also trying to "pressurise" India to adding its voice to ensure that Iran's nuclear issue is dealt with by the IAEA and not by the UNSC.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedijenad had called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on April 28, shortly after IAEA chief Mohammed El Baradei reported to the UNSC that Iran had not fully complied with its inspectors. The conversation, at the Iranian leader's request, concentrated on "energy-related" issues.