NEW DELHI (AFP) -Indian oil ministry officials will travel to Islamabad next week to discuss constructing a long-awaited multi-billion dollar gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan, an official said.
“A team (of Indian officials) led by Petroleum Secretary M.S. Srinivasan is to travel to Islamabad for talks on February 22-23,” said the official who did not want to be named.
The delegation would discuss laying of the pipeline, transit fees to be paid to Islamabad and the security of the pipeline, running from the Iranian border to energy-starved India, the official added.
Iranian officials were also expected to attend the meeting, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said, quoting unnamed Indian officials.
Last week, Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora was quoted as saying an agreement on the pipeline from oil and gas rich Iran could be signed by June.
Talks on the proposed 7.4-billion-dollar project began in 1994, but stalled due to tensions between rivals Pakistan and India.
Resumption of the talks on the 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) pipeline followed the start of a slow-moving peace process between the South Asian nations in February 2004.
The discussions then ran into another obstacle, with Tehran saying New Delhi and Islamabad were unwilling to pay the asking price. In August, the three countries agreed to appoint a consultant to resolve the fee row.
Indian oil ministry sources said the price quoted by Tehran was about seven dollars per million British Thermal Unit (BTU) of gas which includes the cost of transportation.
New Delhi, which is anxious to exploit new sources of energy to fuel its booming economy, deemed this too steep and was unwilling to pay more than 4.25 dollars per BTU.
Last month, a senior Iranian oil said in Tehran pricing bottlenecks had been removed after three days of negotiations with Indian and Pakistani officials in Tehran.