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Sun 2 Nov 2008 06:35 AM

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Iran calls on India to commit to 'peace pipeline'

Oil minister tells Delhi to 'engage more actively' in $7.6bn project from Iran to India via Pakistan.

Iran wants India to commit to a project to export Iranian gas via Pakistan to the south Asian giant and measures have already been discussed to ensure supply security, the Iranian oil minister said on Saturday.

Analysts say India has been treading cautiously over the $7.6 billion pipeline project because it wants to reduce the risk of supplies being cut during times of tension with Pakistan, its long-time rival.

"Considering that we have lost many opportunities in the 'peace pipeline' project due to India's procrastination, we have told that country to engage more actively," Oil minister Gholamhossein Nozari said, Mehr News Agency reported.

Iran has previously said it would press ahead with the long-standing project even if India did not join in.

"The security of this project in each country will be with that country and negotiations so far have created conditions that have assured us this security will prevail," Nozari said.

Nozari was speaking after talks in Tehran with visiting Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was quoted as saying: "India's announcement to join the peace pipeline project means that India has no plan to leave it."

"There has been much negotiation with Pakistan in connection with the cost of transit and establishment of security in the peace pipeline, of which the creation of a joint company might be able to bring about the means," he added.

When asked if India was being influenced by US pressure to quit the project, Mukherjee replied: "We are an independent country with independent ties."

The United States is trying to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear plans and has been urging other countries and companies not to do business with the Islamic Republic.

Washington accuses Iran of seeking to build atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies. Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil producer with the second biggest gas reserves, says it wants nuclear energy so it can save its oil and gas for export. (Reuters)

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