DOHA (Reuters) -Iran, India and Pakistan are close to signing a gas pipeline deal, the Iranian and Pakistani oil ministers told Reuters on Saturday, defying U.S. opposition to the project.
The plan to pump Iranian gas to India through Pakistan was first proposed more than a decade ago, but progress has been slow because of hostility between India and Pakistan and, more recently, U.S. opposition to Iran because of its nuclear programme.
Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri said he had an understanding with India and Pakistan and was unconcerned by U.S. opposition.
“We have a very good understanding,” Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri told Reuters. “They are willing and Iran is ready.”
Asked when the deal would be signed, he said only: “I hope we are going to have a ministerial meeting in Tehran in June,” adding it would be attended by the same three ministers.
Speaking after talks with his Iranian and Indian counterparts on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Doha, Pakistan’s oil minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon told Reuters only technical issues had to be resolved.
The $7 billion pipeline through Pakistan would link Iran’s abundant gas reserves, the world’s second biggest, to India’s booming economy.
It would carry 150 million cubic meters per day of gas for 25 years, Vaziri said.
Although Pakistan is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, it has said the pipeline would aid economic growth and foster better ties with India after years of brinkmanship between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Iran had said it would go ahead without India if it did not agree to join the pipeline by May.
The Indian oil minister Murli Deora declined to comment following Saturday’s talks.