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Mon 1 Oct 2007 09:18 PM

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India no say in Iran-Pakistan gas deal

Details of deal will remain as agreed, even if India decides to join project, Iran says.

Details of a pipeline deal for Pakistan to buy gas from Iran will remain as agreed by the two countries last week, even if India decides to join the project, an Iranian oil ministry official was quoted as saying.

Last week's talks in Tehran on the proposed $7 billion pipeline project had been expected to include India, which has expressed interest in importing gas from Iran via Pakistan.

But India stayed away, saying it wanted to agree transit costs through Pakistan on a bilateral basis first.

"The agreements between Iran and Pakistan, including a part over price review, are based on international standards and would not be changed even if India walks in," Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, international affairs director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was quoted on Monday as telling the oil ministry's website Shana.

"Agreements [in the Tehran talks] have paved the ground for India to join the talks," Ghanimifard said.

The details agreed last week will be drawn up in final documents to be examined at bilateral talks in Islamabad on October 15 through 19.

Mukhtar Ahmed, the energy adviser to Pakistan's prime minister, said last week after the bilateral talks that the price of the gas would be linked to the price of oil. He also said the two sides had agreed on a price review clause - an issue that had been pending - but he did not elaborate.

Iran says it would still sign a deal with Pakistan if India decides not to join.

Tehran had earlier said it was ready to sign the deal for the project when India and Pakistan agreed on a transit fee for the gas crossing Pakistan into India.

The pipeline would initially carry 60 million cubic metres of gas daily to Pakistan and India, half for each country. The pipeline's capacity would later rise to 150 million cubic metres.

Pakistan says it could want 60 million cubic metres for itself in the future.

Iran says it has completed 18% of the work for the pipeline to bring gas from its South Pars field up to Iran-Pakistan border. Pakistan has yet to begin work on a 1,000 kilometre stretch of the pipeline to link Iran with India.

Iran has the world's second-largest gas reserves after Russia. But sanctions, politics and construction delays have slowed its gas development and analysts say Iran is unlikely to become a major exporter for a decade.

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