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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 16:55 GMT
Iran urges India to back pipeline
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Energy has dominated Mr Khatami's visit to India
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has urged India to join in the construction of a multibillion-dollar pipeline that would bring Iranian gas to the subcontinent.

Iran has gas and we want it... but there are some impediments in the middle

Atal Behari Vajpayee
Indian PM
Mr Khatami told Indian business leaders in Delhi that the pipeline was ''implementable'' despite India's fears about it crossing Pakistan.

The Pakistan question has hampered talks on the project since they began in 1994.

Delhi would prefer an underwater pipeline to ease security concerns.

'Perennial flow'

Those fears have been exacerbated in the past week with three separate attacks on Pakistani gas pipelines by feuding tribesmen.

Iran-India oil pipeline
The visiting Iranian president said the pipeline project would "play a very significant role in providing India with an inexpensive and perennial flow of energy".

A 2,600-kilometre (1620-mile) land line would cost about $3.5 billion and the supplies would be a huge boost for energy-starved India.

Iran, which has the world's second-largest gas reserves after Russia, also needs new markets.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said after meeting Mr Khatami that "Iran has gas and we want it". But he added: "There are some impediments in the middle."

Delhi has, however, agreed to send its petroleum minister to Tehran to try to work out a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Road links

Energy has dominated Mr Khatami's visit to India, where he was the chief guest at the country's Republic Day celebrations on Sunday.

Pipeline
Recent tribal attacks have worsened security fears

Iran offered to sell more crude oil to India and invited Indian investment in the country's energy sector.

Although, the pipeline issue remains unresolved, the two countries signed seven agreements covering co-operation in science and technology, culture and water management.

Iran also offered Indian goods a new transport corridor from the Iranian port of Chahbahar to the Afghan town of Delaram.

The move was part of an agreement on helping to rebuild Afghanistan.

See also:

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