Iran General NewsIndia, Iran to seal gas pipeline deal 'by next...

India, Iran to seal gas pipeline deal ‘by next month’: oil minister

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ImageAFP: India expects to sign a deal "by next month" on a pipeline that will transport gas across the subcontinent from Iran, Indian oil minister Murli Deora told AFP on Thursday.

ImageMADRID (AFP) — India expects to sign a deal "by next month" on a pipeline that will transport gas across the subcontinent from Iran, Indian oil minister Murli Deora told AFP on Thursday.

He said the 7.5-billion-dollar (4.7-billion-euro) project to bring gas from Iranian fields to India and Pakistan had been discussed on the sidelines of the World Petroleum Congress industry event, which ended in Madrid Thursday.

"We discussed this here again yesterday (Wednesday). There should be an end to dialogue now," Deora said in an interview with AFP at the World Petroleum Congress in Madrid when asked about the project.

"The only issue is where to take the delivery, the delivery point," he said, adding the two options were on the India-Pakistan border or the Pakistan-Iran border.

"But these things are being sorted out at a very high level now, and I hope by next month things will be okay," said the minister of petroleum and natural gas.

Asked when the deal could be signed, he said: "I hope by next month."

Talks on the 2,600-kilometre (1,615-mile) Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline began in 1994 but were stalled by tensions between India and Pakistan and disagreements over prices and transit fees.

India and Pakistan reported last month that they had resolved commercial differences holding up the deal.

India has been under pressure from the United States not to do business with Iran, viewed in Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism and seen as bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

But New Delhi, which imports more than 70 percent of its energy needs, has been trawling for new supplies of oil and gas while ramping up domestic production to sustain its booming economy.

Earlier this year, New Delhi told Washington not to interfere in its dealings with Iran after a State Department spokesman said Washington would like India to put pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme.

India said that Iran had the right to peaceful use of nuclear energy but has asked Tehran to cooperate with the United Nations nuclear watchdog. Tehran denies its nuclear programme is a cover for building atomic weapons.

India in 2005 signed another deal with Iran, which has the world's second largest known gas reserves after Russia, for the supply of five million tonnes of gas annually for 25 years.

Deori also rejected criticism that rising energy demands in India and China were helping to push up oil prices.

"I don't think that (issue) should have found place here (at the WPC)," he said.

"I think that China and India are consuming a small portion of the energy, and to blame them — that the sole reason for price increases is India and China — I don't think that's fair," he said.

Divisions appeared to be growing between the oil powers and consumer nations at the congress over how to bring down the oil prices, which hit 145 dollars a barrel Thursday.

Top officials from consumer and producer countries had already met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on June 22 for talks about resolving the problem of the runaway oil market, but prices have risen since then.

But Deora rejected suggestions that the four-day WPC congress had been a failure.

"There has been some movement. The very fact that everybody met and everybody spoke about different angles and different ideas … is a great achievement. You don't expect the price (of oil) to go down to 30 dollars… You have a dialogue and you present your views."

Asked about Indian fuel subsidies, he said "it's very sensitive, but what do you do when you have so many people and the need for cheap energy."

India subsidises fuel costs in a bid to ease the burden on the poorest members of society.

But it has recently been forced to raise prices amid soaring global crude oil costs, triggering anti-government demonstrations.

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