Iran, Pak may ink pipeline pact

Tehran, Sep 29 | Updated: Sep 30 2007, 07:47am hrs
Iran is all set to sign a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline deal with Pakistan by the end of October without including India, a top Iranian oil official said on Saturday.

The peace pipeline contract ... will be ready to sign by the end of October, Hojatollah Ghanimi-Fard, Irans representative to the talks, said.

Indian officials have been absent from the talks over the so-called peace pipeline between Iranian and Pakistani officials to finalise the long-delayed deal, which would see Iranian gas sent to Pakistan and to India via Pakistan.

It was agreed that the price be calculated according to the current gas market standards, Ghanimi-Fard said. Pakistan asked for 60 million cubic metres per day, 30 million of which was approved, he was quoted as saying by the state IRNA news agency.

All issues of disagreement were studied again and all points have been finalised, he said, adding the final meeting will be held in Pakistan in mid-October to study the text of the contract to see if it does not contradict agreements. Ghanimi-Fard said India was welcome to join the contract whenever its problems are resolved and it will be a tripartite deal. An Iranian official said earlier this week that India was not taking part in the discussions because it was yet to finalise a deal with Pakistan over the cost of transit across its neighbours territory.

Discussions on the 7.4 billion-dollar project started in 1994, but have been held up due to technical and commercial issues. There have also been strong objections to the pipeline from the United States.