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Tue 3 Jul 2007 11:45 AM

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Iran still confident about pipeline possibilities

Discussions between Iran, India and Pakistan over a planned US $7 billion gas pipeline are going well, says Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, adding that the US would not derail the project.

"Fortunately, the negotiations are making progress," he said. "Principles have been agreed and we hope that in the current year we will be able to finalise the deal."

The US, which has accused Tehran of developing a covert nuclear weapons programme, has repeatedly sought to discourage India from the project. Iran denies the allegation. "[The US wants to] interfere in all the world's affairs and they consider themselves the owner of the world," added Ahmadinejad. "But they will not have an impact on this issue."

The plan has also been hampered by pricing issues and political tensions. In June an Iranian energy official said during the latest round of talks that in the first stage of the planned contract, 60 million m3 of gas per day would be exported to Pakistan and India. If a second stage of exporting 150 million m3 of gas is reached, another pipeline will be needed, the official said.

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