Iran, Pakistan to Sign Gas Accord This Month

A033411018.jpgTEHRAN (FNA) Pakistan will sign a key gas sale and purchase agreement with Iran in January to import gas via a proposed pipeline, Pakistan Petroleum Minister Ahsan Ullah Khan said yesterday.

“We are targeting the signing within this month and both Pakistan and Iran have (expressed) willingness to sign it,” Khan said.

The Press Trust of India, quoting an unnamed Iranian official, had said the two countries may not sign a bilateral agreement next week and that Iran was keen on India joining the project.

The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, originally suggested almost a decade ago, has been facing delays on pricing of gas and more recently due to disagreement between India and Pakistan over transit fees.

“The signing will take place well before the end of the month and before the last week of this month,” Khan said. “The signing is to take place in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and both heads of states would be there at the signing.”

An Indian delegation had been scheduled to visit Pakistan before end-2007 for discussions on the $7.4 bln pipeline, but the meeting was postponed due to the political turmoil in Pakistan, an Indian oil ministry official said.

“We first need to sort out the bilateral issues,” he said.

PTI reported that Iran may propose a trilateral meeting in New Delhi in February, quoting the Iranian official.

The Pakistani Cabinet on Tuesday approved the gas pipeline agreement. The cabinet gave its approval to the planned gas purchases, a government guarantee, gas sales to local supply companies and agreed to take additional gas if India doesn’t join the pipeline project.

Pakistan is considering two routes for the pipeline – one from Quetta to Rahim Yar Khan and another to connect Sukkar and Karachi. Pakistan’s part of the pipeline is likely to cost between $2.7bn and $3bn, and range from 700 to 1,050km.

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