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Monday, June 15, 2009

Gazprom linked to Pakistan pipeline by Iran

Laying Pipes06-12-2009 - Financial times by Anna Fifield - Gazprom is in talks with Iran and Pakistan to build a large section of a long-awaited gas pipeline between the two countries, a senior Iranian energy official says. The participation of Russia's state-controlled energy group could kick-start the pipeline project, which has been delayed because of disagreements that have led India to pull out. "Both we and Pakistan are talking with Gazprom and we have agreed that Gazprom can be a partner [to construct] the pipeline inside Pakistan," Hojatollah Ghanimifard, vice-president for investment affairs at the National Iranian Oil Company, told the Financial Times. The proposed 2,600km gas pipeline would transport gas from Iran to Pakistan and India, providing them with 60m cubic metres of gas a day initially, eventually rising to 150m cu m a day. The project, valued at $7.6bn, has been under discussion since 1994 but has been bedevilled by delays, most recently because of disagreements between India and Pakistan over transit fees. India has now walked away from the deal. But Mr Ghanimifard said the project was making progress. "Last week I was in Russia, I had the pleasure of talking to high authorities in Gazprom and I proposed to them that this was in the interest of Pakistan and invited them to become involved," he said. He added the Pakistani portion of the pipeline would stretch about 900 km. "They liked this idea and accepted. We are going to see each other trilaterally in Tehran," he said. He said the meeting was due to take place before the end of July. Gazprom said: "We are interested in this project - but so far there have been no specific negotiations." Analysts say Gazprom is interested partly because it seeks a way to channel Iranian gas away from Russia's traditional markets in Europe. Its interest and technological expertise could also inject momentum into the delayed project, they say. India, which imports about 70 per cent of its oil and gas, would still have the option to join at a later date, Mr Ghanimifard said. "When you're talking about a long relationship that will last decades, we cannot say that even though they are out for a few years, they will be out forever," he said. About 700km of pipeline from the South Pars gas field has already been built inside Iran, and the remaining 200km to the Pakistani border is under construction, Mr Ghanimifard said.

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