NEW DELHI (AFP) -India is committed to a multi-billion dollar pipeline that will transport gas from energy-rich Iran through Pakistan despite reported objections from United States, Oil Minister Murli Deora said.
“I don’t see any problem (on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline),” Deora was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency on Saturday.
“No country can debar India from this project. We are committed to this,” Deora said during a visit to India’s financial capital Mumbai.
His comments follow reports that US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, during a visit here this week, had urged India to drop plans to construct the pipeline saying it would help Iran build nuclear weapons.
Deora did not give any timeframe for completion of the pipeline though last month he said an agreement on the pipeline could be signed by June.
“I can’t give any timeframe. The advisors have been appointed and they are preparing the feasibility report. It is too early to say at this stage,” Deora said.
Talks on the proposed 7.4-billion-dollar project began in 1994, but stalled due to tensions between rivals Pakistan and India.
The discussions only gathered momentum after the launch of a peace process between the South Asian rivals in 2004.
Despite being US allies in its global “war on terror,” India and Pakistan have said they want to go ahead with the 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) Iranian pipeline project as they need energy to fuel economic growth.
Iran plans to lay a pipeline from the giant South Pars gas field to carry 90 million standard cubic meters per day of gas. One third will be used by Iran while Pakistan and India will get another third each.
Washington, which accuses Tehran of supporting terrorism and trying to make a nuclear bomb, says Iran will use the revenue generated from the pipeline to finance these activities.
The UN Security Council reached broad agreement late Friday on a draft resolution expanding sanctions imposed in December after Iran spurned demands to freeze its sensitive nuclear fuel work.
The draft resolution would ban Tehran from exporting arms, calls for voluntary trade sanctions and expands a list of officials and companies targeted for financial and travel restrictions.
It builds on sanctions already adopted by the Security Council in December, including a ban on the sale of nuclear and ballistic missile-related materials to Iran and a freeze on financial assets of Iranians involved in illicit atomic and ballistic missile work.