Iran, Pakistan to ink pipeline deal

Feb. 8, 2010 at 12:10 PM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Iran and Pakistan will sign formal agreements on the construction of a natural gas pipeline from the South Pars field as early as the weekend, officials said.

Naveed Qamar, the Pakistani minister for petroleum, said both sides plan to sign off on the agreement for the natural gas pipeline at a ceremony in Ankara planned before Feb. 15, Pakistan's Daily Times reports.

He added his country is facing a looming natural gas shortage, making the pipeline a matter of national importance.

Iran wants to ship some of the gas from the offshore South Pars complex, the largest in the world, east through the long-delayed pipeline to eastern markets.

Pakistan signed an agreement with Tehran in 2009 to secure 750 million cubic feet of natural gas per day through the pipeline.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, blamed Washington for trying to interfere with pipeline plans, meanwhile, by courting New Delhi.

Washington opposes the project because of the economic benefits it would give to Iran, which is facing punitive economic sanctions for its controversial nuclear program.

In January Richard Holbrooke, Washington's special envoy to the region, made special gas offers to Islamabad in an effort to persuade the government to back away from the project.

China has re-emerged as a possible alternative to India in Iran's pipeline plans.

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