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Iran, Pakistan close to natural gas link

July 27, 2011 at 7:45 AM

TEHRAN, July 27 (UPI) -- Pakistan could connect its transit networks to Iranian gas supplies as early as next year if it wants to, the Iranian envoy to Islamabad said.

Asim Hussain, Pakistan's minister for petroleum and natural resources, said early this month that Islamabad was in talks with various companies to start work on a natural gas pipeline that could connect to Iran.

Hussain said Iran was finished laying the pipeline on its side of the border. Pakistan is expected to start work on the project within six months.

Mashallah Shakeri, the Iranian envoy to Islamabad, said Iran could start sending gas to Pakistan as early as next year, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reports.

"If desired, Pakistan can connect with the pipeline next year," he was quoted as saying.

Once dubbed the Peace Pipeline, the project was expected to reach into India. Washington in June said it was committed to expanding civilian nuclear cooperation with New Delhi, which recently backed away from the Iranian pipeline.

The Iranian gas pipeline is up against a Western-backed project from Turkmenistan that would follow a similar route.

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